Thu Feb 21, 2019, 06:52 PM

Smallpox Bioterrorist Attack Could Devastate Planet for 10 Years

Published time: 21 Feb, 2019 13:42

In August 2018, Australian scientists launched a complex international simulation dubbed, ‘Exercise Mataika’, which investigated a ‘worst-case scenario’ for a smallpox bioterrorist attack and the results are horrifying.
Smallpox, one of the most infectious diseases known to man, was officially eradicated in 1980, but two officially known samples of the disease are held in secure laboratories in the US and Russia.

The team’s simulation began with a smallpox bioterrorist attack in Fiji; the first case is reported in a private hospital but is not diagnosed properly as doctors are unfamiliar with the (now effectively-extinct) disease. The hypothetical outbreak then spreads to 200 people, of which roughly 40 percent die.

As the virus spreads, local health systems are overwhelmed, mass panic ensues, exacerbated by media reports and a 13-day delay in correctly identifying the outbreak. The number of infected quickly rises to 2,000 cases, including doctors, at which point nurses go on strike. The first wave of 32,000 vaccinations arrive in Fiji just as another, larger attack occurs in a more populous country in Asia.

In the study’s worst-case scenario, only 50 percent of people infected with the disease are isolated and only half of the people they had contact with are tracked and vaccinated. This leads to a “catastrophic blow-out in the epidemic.”

“Under these conditions, modelling shows it will take more than a billion doses and 10 years to stop the epidemic,” the researchers explain.


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