The FDA approved the Jynneos Smallpox and Monkeypox Vaccine last week. The live, non-replicating vaccine is made from a vaccinia virus, which is closely related to, but less harmful than, variola or monkeypox viruses and can protect against both of these diseases.
Smallpox used to be a huge problem around the world, killing
an estimated 300 million people “in the 20th century alone.” About a third of
those who got infected by the variola virus did not survive.
In fact, smallpox was so significant that it changed the
course of history on many an occasion. For example, the virus may have helped
the Spanish, British, and other European countries colonize the Americas. High
school history books may not mention the fact that smallpox brought over by
European settlers helped weaken and wipe out many of the Aztecs, Incas, and
Native Americans who had been occupying the Americas and had never been
previously exposed to the virus.
Indeed, not too long ago, smallpox was a major killer disease. That’s why the global eradication of smallpox that was declared complete in 1980 was such a big public health achievement. That’s also why any event that combines the words “accident” and “existing smallpox laboratory samples,” quickly results in worldwide news. This happened just last week when an explosion occurred in Vector, a Russian building that’s one of two facilities in the world housing the remaining samples of the smallpox virus. Fortunately, the explosion did not seem to affect the samples.
Read more by Bruce Y. Yee at Forbes
The presence of rodent-associated natural foci containing at least 6 of the known 11 viruses belonging to the genus Orthopoxvirus (Poxviridae, Chordopoxvirinae) within the equatorial, tropical, subtropical, temperate, and subarctic climatic zones; the increasing aggravation of the monkey pox epidemic situation in equatorial Africa with an increase in human mortality by an average of 9.8% with a possibility of 2 to 8 passages in 30-70% of patients; the possible persistence of a virus in the human cadavers buried in the permafrost of Eurasia and America; bioterrorism threat due to the unaccounted viral reserves persisting somewhere or somebody; no postvaccinal human immunity since vaccination and vaccine manufacture stopped 30 years ago as recommended by the WHO, make the risk of the deteriorating epidemic situation with disastrous effects greater now and in the foreseeable future than it was 20-30 years ago.
British Journal of Industrial Medicine
Although the risk is remote, the WHO and the UK Advisory Committee
on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) informed HSE that, although the risk was remote, survival
of virus on the preserved skin of a smallpox victim interred in a crypt over
100 years ago could not be excluded. The survival time of smallpox virus in preserved
infected scabs has not been adequately documented, but viable virus was
isolated from scabs kept in envelopes within a laboratory cupboard for up to 13
years when testing was discontinued.
Most authorities believe that in the presence of moisture –
for example, in earth burials – smallpox virus is unlikely to remain viable for
long, and no more than one to two years even in exceptional conditions.
Survival of the virus within scabs on the preserved skin of smallpox victims
buried in permafrost or in dry cool crypts, however, could be much longer.
Federal scientists last week discovered a half-dozen
forgotten vials of smallpox virus while cleaning out a storage area on the
campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The
six vials of freeze-dried virus, apparently dating from the 1950s, were found
by a scientist from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 1 July in a cold
storage room that was originally part of an NIH laboratory, but was transferred
to FDA in the early 1970s.