Smallpox

I don’t know if I had the smallpox vaccine. I was around in the 1960s when it was still being given but it wasn’t compulsory then. The compulsion ended before 1900, but the vaccine worked so well that smallpox was eradicated in the wild by 1980.

It’s probably in my medical records somewhere, but it doesn’t matter. There is no smallpox any more.

So, how was this acheived, and why isn’t it now done with more viruses? Well, smallpox was something of a unique disease. It only affected humans, it didn’t have an animal reservoir. Coronaviruses are found in bats and other animals, so are cold and flu viruses and most other diseases. Smallpox, however, only ever affected humans – so all we had to do was make sure nobody caught it and it died out. That’s not going to work with anything else.

Smallpox is gone, and yet it’s back in the news. Bill Gates suggested that a bioterrorist could use smallpox to launch an attack. The FDA has approved a new smallpox vaccine and Canada has ordered millions of doses. Why?

None of it makes any sense at all. Why a ‘new’ vaccine? The old one did the job exceptionally well. If there is any risk of a return of smallpox, why not just make more of that one? Well of course there’d be no money in it – the ‘new’ one will still be in its profit phase.

Why would anyone order millions of doses? The only smallpox in existence is in a very few, very secure laboratories. Anyone wanting to study it should of course be vaccinated, but as it no longer exists in the wild, there’s no need to vaccinate the whole population. I suspect the answer there is likely to involve money again.

As for using it as a bioweapon, that’s the most insane part of all. It does not exist in the wild. There would be no question that it came from a lab because it doesn’t exist anywhere else. The list of suspects would be really quite short too.

I saw that Bill Gates interview. He quite specifically said ‘smallpox’. Not any infectious disease, not one that is still out there in the wild, like say anthrax, plague, tuberculosis, polio, nothing like that. He said, specifically, smallpox. Which would be likely to be the hardest one for any bioterrorist to get hold of.

This hypothetical bioterrorist is not going to isolate smallpox from a contaminated sample or a patient. He’s going to have to break in to a high security lab and then into a -70C freezer – which are always locked – and he will have to know exactly what he is looking for and get it out of that freezer without losing fingers to frostbite or infecting himself with the smallpox sample or anything else that will be in there. Basically, he would have to be working in that lab with enough training to know what he is doing. He’s not going to be hard to find.

It’s also the most idiotic choice for a bioweapon. Once you let this thing out you’re not going to find it easy to put it back. It has a nine day incubation period. Patient Zero is spreading it for over a week before they even start to get sick. So is everyone he interacts with. Back in the 1800s this might be containable but now, nine days is enough for someone to travel over most of the planet.

If you release this, it’s coming back to bite you. You cannot contain it.

So, if you have a new, experimental vaccine and you don’t know if the vaccine is safe or not, you have to take it. You have no choice. There are no effective treatments and unlike Covid, this time you have a 70% chance of dying from smallpox. Even if you survive it, it can leave you with permanent disfiguration.

If Bill Gates really is deranged enough to even consider this, someone needs to talk him out of it fast. It’s well known that he hasn’t had his children take any vaccines. This one though, he’ll have to. He’ll have to take it himself. Even if it’s a dodgy mRNA potion.

Smallpox is a lousy choice of bioweapon. It cannot be contained once released. Its origin can be traced very quickly since it has to come from a lab, and there aren’t many that have it. It would have to be handled by an expert otherwise the risk of contaminating themselves is huge. There would be little difficulty in finding out who was responsible, and once they are caught they are going to talk. A lot. They won’t want to take all the responsibility for something like this, whoever paid them is going to get named.

It would be an extraordinarily risky move, so I don’t think it’s going to happen.

What might happen is a fake smallpox scare. We’ve seen this recently with necrotising fasciitis, mad cow disease, Zika and Ebola. It takes less than ten cases for everyone to think they’re all doomed. A couple of Ebola cases in the UK (they were medics who had returned from treating African victims) and the whole country went into panic. Stirred, as always, by the media.

Necrotising fasciitis had stories of people visibly dissolving on trains. It never actually happened. Mad cow disease had about ten cases in a year, this was projected by a ‘scientist’ (with an impressively straight face) to become 100 cases over the next ten years. Yeah, that’s ten cases a year. There aren’t any at the moment, as far as I am aware.

All of these things are gone now. I’m sure there are still cases of necrotising fasciitis but they are very rare (I think at its height there were eight cases in a year) and not newsworthy.

You really don’t need to release a virulent bioweapon. You just need to make people think it’s going to happen and you can sell them vaccines. Even vaccines against a disease they have no chance of catching. A couple of photos of chicken pox or cowpox sufferers, magically saved by your smallpox ‘vaccine’ and there you go. They’ll line up to pay for your cure.

In the fiction that was ‘The Macbeth Trio‘ I used scrofula as the sales pitch to sell a vaccine nobody needs. I didn’t think smallpox would be a credible one to use.

Seems someone else thinks it is.

23 thoughts on “Smallpox

    • Yeah but you could contain almost anything in 1960 Russia, to be fair. It couldn’t spread far because the vaccinations began before 1800 so there were not many unvaccinated left and because at that time, travel in Russia was severely limited.

      It’s not like now, when you can get on a plane and be on the other side of the planet in just over 24 hours.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Igor Chudov @ November 8, 2021 at 4:52 am

      Smallpox was extant in the 1960’s. Upon returning from summer hols in East Africa to the delights of a Northern English boarding school, my brother (P ma) and I were summonsed from prep to report to Matron in the Sanny. A Man from the Ministry – probably MAFF – was overseeing arrangements for us to be isolated after a suspected case of smallpox was detected in a passenger on our flight to London, who had continued on to the United States.

      We were despatched back to Big School to collect our belongings and I remember describing what was going on to the prefect in charge. I don’t know what he made of it.

      After a night in the Sanny, the Man from the Ministry informed Matron that it was a false alarm and that in any case there had been no risk of transmission. We were cast out in time for assembly.

      It gave me a bit of a fright at the time (I was 11). I don’t recall there being much interest or concern amongst the other pupils, probably because it was over so quickly. Only one fellow inmate asked me about it and the event probably had little circulation amongst the day boys (about 70% of the school).

      DP

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  1. Cowpox, or for that matter Vaccinia (which is domesticated, vaccine-strain cowpox) could easily be used as the basic organism to base a new version of smallpox on. The RNA sequence for smallpox is known; used to be widely available on the databases. That’s changed now, as RNA assembly technology has become more effective, but there is still the potential for some utter numpty to take Vaccinia proteins, assemble and duplicate a viable smallpox RNA genome and combine the two.

    That would bring smallpox back from oblivion, and whilst it would be from a lab, it would not be from the three or four containment labs which still have samples of smallpox. It would be somewhere else, it would be re-released by someone else and it would devastate the world’s population.

    There are people out there who believe the world population is too high; quite a lot of them. Most favour a slow and steady enforced decline over a period of centuries to achieve a reduction in world human population quietly and safely. A tiny minority of the “population too high” crowd are catastrophists and believe that a devastating plague is the only way to reduce the population. Smallpox is the obvious candidate for such a plague, and guarding against such an eventuality is only sane right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many years ago I read about a group who had assembled a viable polio virus using nucleotides, loaded it into a cell and saw replication. So yes, it can be done that way – but it would take considerable expertise and investment. Although most of the billionaires around today can afford it, would they find anyone with the expertise willing to do it?

      Well… many years ago, someone did it with polio so…

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  2. I had smallpox vaccinations in 1971 and 1978 (Merchant Navy, so we were probably going somewhere where it might have been present). Still got the certificates, which were valid for 3 years. Can’t remember if I was vaccinated as a child back in the 1950s but I think it’d be on my NHS records

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  3. Necrotising fasciitis is a nasty condition. Like gangrene the stink is the first thing that hits you. I’ve seen it once from where faecal matter leaked from a bowel operation wound site. Not a nice way of checking out.

    You recall that smallpox scare from the lab leak in 1978? Didn’t go far, claiming only the life of one Janet Parker (Who had previously been vaccinated against the disease).

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      • A former boss of mine, a nuclear chemist by training, tells the tale of when a very old, very eminent but unfortunately somewhat demented nuclear chemist was forced to retire by virtue of being unable to find his way from home to work. He had a number of rather interesting and dangerous chemicals checked out from the lab stores, so the goal during the decommissioning of his lab was to either find these chemicals, or if they were especially short half-life isotopes, determine that they had decayed away.

        This went well for a week or so, with all chemicals being reasonably easily found and identified. Granted, nomenclature and labeling had suffered a bit due to the chap’s slowly developing Alzheimers, but not so much that things were going unaccounted for.

        Except, by the end, they were almost ready to call in the cleaners when they were down to one outstanding item: 500 g of enriched plutonium.

        It wasn’t in the secure store cabinet. It wasn’t on the normal shelving. It wasn’t in any of the other cupboards. Nobody else had “borrowed” it, and by this time alarm was setting in. They did one last sweep and finally discovered the stuff. In solution as plutonium nitrate in water, in two unlabelled Winchester bottles stuck under the sink.

        Now, if some dozy cleaner had simply poured those away and disposed of the bottles, there would have been the biggest peacetime radioactive contamination event ever. Britain had a close one with that chap!

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  4. But, take Bill Gates as an example. Why…why…would he think he would need _any more money_ …?
    It’s not even worth his while to pick up a $1,000 dollar Treasury-Bill that inadvertently fell out of his pocket.

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  5. I was vaccinated against Small Pox God knows when. But then I caught Chicken Pox when I was 25 years old. I nearly festering died. A husband away at sea and two small children. Go to bed said The Doctor. But I had lost it by then, so heaven knows who looked after my children.
    I did recover eventually by which time the children caught it from me. But the rotten little barstards were both breast fed and sailed through it. But I wouldn’t want to belabour the point.

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    • I had chicken pox as a child. Still remember the stink of calamine lotion. Measles was worse though, that was a couple of weeks of feeling totally crap.
      And mumps – damn, I thought I’d never swallow any solid food again!

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      • After The Tuberculosis I decided that I wasn’t having any more of this shit. Rhesus Negative Blood and an immune system to die for. I am allergic to every bloody thing, Including anything that anyone wants to throw at me. So I am not having any of it anymore. Which is probably why I am never ill.
        Food can be a bit of a problem, but so long as I only eat Lettuce then I am sure that I will be okay. What. This is a howl a minute. I hate Lettuce with a passion. So I eat anything that looks half green. No, I am definitely not Vegan or even Vegetarian. What a disaster.

        They do say that Rhesus Negative People are Aliens and I could go along with that. I am definitely alienated from the Human Race as I understand them, or more to the point do not understand them. And do not even want to.

        This might have been a good Blog Post, but perhaps a bit too controversial. My children already think that I am raving mad. But then you would be if you are an Alien. Like what the fuck am I. doing here?

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        • I have dodgy guts. Seems to be sensitive to wheat overload. Not an actual gluten allergy, nothing life threatening, just a bad (somewhat explosive) reaction to too much of it. So I don’t buy gluten free bread because it’s rubbish, but gluten free pasta seems to be pretty good. It ‘runs’ (literally) in the family. I find peppermint oil capsules help a lot.
          I’m Rh+ but still feel like an alien in this world. I’m sure there are very, very many who feel the same these days.
          (Oh, and my kids know for sure I’m completely nuts).

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          • Ah, but you are a man and men are allowed to be a bit particuliar. Women on the other hand need locking when they get to my age regardless of who they might think they are. Mind you, they might have a job and a half. We shall have to see. But this Covid rubbish hasn’t helped. I no longer function alone. And that is a fact.

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