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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

REPORT: Reducing the Risk of Smallpox and Other Orthopoxviruses

The looming threat of smallpox and other orthopoxviruses poses a significant danger to global security, stemming from the potential for intentional weaponization, accidental release, and the vulnerability of populations lacking routine vaccinations since the 1970s.

Extensive research by the former Soviet Union (FSU) into smallpox as part of its bioweapons program raises concerns. The FSU weaponized a potent strain, India 67 or India 1, with advanced production methods and maintained a substantial yearly reserve. Their efforts extended to engineering aerial delivery mechanisms, enhancing virulence, and exploring combinations with other viruses. Despite doubts about the destruction of their biological weapon stockpiles, Russia retains the capability to produce and weaponize smallpox.

Advancements in synthetic biology now present additional risks, exemplified by Canadian researchers synthesizing the horsepox virus using mail-order DNA services in 2017. This indicates that nation states, terrorist groups, or individuals could potentially recreate smallpox at a low cost and with relative ease.

Beyond deliberate attacks, the existence of accidental releases from repositories in the United States and Russia remains a concern. Additionally, 78 countries working with orthopoxviruses face the risk of accidental releases, potentially leading to devastating outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics.

The threats, vulnerabilities, and potential consequences of orthopoxviruses, particularly smallpox, highlight the urgent need for preparedness. With a mortality rate of at least 30%, the reemergence of such diseases poses a severe risk, necessitating proactive measures to avert mass casualties, economic turmoil, and social unrest. Ignoring these risks could leave the world dangerously unprepared for the resurgence of once-debilitating diseases or the emergence of new, deadly orthopoxviruses.

Read the full report here.

author avatar
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon
Matt Seldon, BSc., is an Editorial Associate with HSToday. He has over 20 years of experience in writing, social media, and analytics. Matt has a degree in Computer Studies from the University of South Wales in the UK. His diverse work experience includes positions at the Department for Work and Pensions and various responsibilities for a wide variety of companies in the private sector. He has been writing and editing various blogs and online content for promotional and educational purposes in his job roles since first entering the workplace. Matt has run various social media campaigns over his career on platforms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn on topics surrounding promotion and education. His educational campaigns have been on topics including charity volunteering in the public sector and personal finance goals.

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