Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK


Health

Smallpox lives on

The WHO wants further research into vaccinations

The last remaining stocks of the smallpox virus, originally scheduled for destruction next month, will now be kept alive until at least 2002.

The World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organisation (WHO), voted to postpone the destruction of the virus for three more years to allow further research into new anti-viral drugs and vaccinations.

The remaining two samples - held in high security laboratories in the United States and Russia - were due to have been incinerated at the end of next month.

But last month, the US Government announced it would keep the smallpox virus to study new anti-viral drugs and vaccines.

The White House also expressed concern that illegal stocks of the virus might exist and be used some day by insurgent groups as an illegal weapon.

Scientists at the Russian laboratory also spoke out in favour of keeping the virus, saying it could help explain how the human immune system works.

Concerted effort

Smallpox was declared eradicted from the world in 1980, after a concerted international effort by the WHO, ending a scourge that had lasted centuries and killed millions.


[ image: Smallpox was eradicated by 1980]
Smallpox was eradicated by 1980
Following the decision by the World Health Assembly, a group of virus experts will now be set up to decide an agenda for research.

But the WHO's spokesman on smallpox, Dr David Heymann, says the destruction of smallpox remains a long-term goal.

Smallpox causes the development of blisters on the skin which fill with fluid and become inflamed.

They then burst leaving a foul smelling crust on the skin.

In epidemics, 20% of patients died from the disease. Others suffered disfiguring scars and, occassionally, blindness.

The last case of smallpox was reported in Somalia in 1977.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

23 May 99 | Health
Smallpox destruction to be delayed

07 May 99 | Health
Smallpox vaccine warning

23 Apr 99 | Health
US retains smallpox supplies





Internet Links


World Health Organisation

World Federation of Public Health Associations

Smallpox


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99