March 7, 2003

Viruela or Smallpox

By Diego Alvarez

To many persons will seem them strange that in these times be spoken of an old illness and eradicated as it is the smallpox. Nevertheless this illness is one of the main worries of the government of the president Bush, due to that would be able to put in risk to the population in case of a biological attack.

The President Bush initiated a national program of preparation to protect to the Americans against the smallpox in case to be utilized like biological weapon. By this reason him has been requested to the different communities that form teams of preparation against the illness.

According to information of the Center for the Control and Prevention of the Illnesses (CDC by its acronyms in English), the smallpox is a serious illness that causes the death to 30% of the persons infected. This illness is caused for a called virus variola that is transmitted of a person to another through the nearby contact. 

It is believed that the terrorist groups would be able to have access to the virus of the smallpox and to utilize it like biological weapon. That it is why the government has suggested to the teams of answer specialized in medical attention, as well as to other groups that are the first in responding before an emergency, to use the vaccine against the illness. These teams will take charge of identifying other persons that have is vaccinated to control the bud and to establish central public of vaccination. 

The smallpox is a very old illness. During thousands of years epidemics of smallpox were presented; nevertheless, after a successful world program of vaccination managed to eradicate the illness. In the United States, the last case of smallpox was registered in 1949, while the last case occurred in the world was registered in Somalia in 1977. Once the illness was eradicated in the planet, the habitual vaccination was suspended of all the population. 

Except by the reserves in some laboratories, the virus of the smallpox is eliminated. Nevertheless, because of the terrorist attacks of September and October of 2001 has enlarged the worry. 

At present, in the United States there are sufficient quantities of the vaccine against the smallpox applying it to all the Americans that could need it in case of an emergency. The vaccine continues producing without interruption. 

This vaccine can have secondary effects and can present some risks. The majority of the persons experience normal reactions, as pain in the arm, fever and pains in the body. Nevertheless, other persons present reactions that can be serious. 

The persons that have more probabilities to present serious secondary effects are those that have suffered illnesses of the skin and who have the immune system weakened, as for example the ones that have received a transplante, are VIH positive, are in processing for the cancer or are taking some medicines that deteriorate the immune system. 

Pregnant women should neither receive the vaccine because represents a risk for the fetus. The women that are breastfeeding should neither receive the vaccine, neither the children less than 12 months of age.

The Committee Advisor on Methods of Inmunización (ACIP) advises that himself do not apply the vaccine against the smallpox, unless be a matter of a situation of emergency, to 18-year-old smaller persons. 

At the moment, the government has not recommended that the public in general be vaccinates against the smallpox due to that does not have information on an imminent biological attack, and due also to them mentioned secondary effects of the vaccine. 

For more information on the vaccine of the smallpox call to Linea de Ayuda 1-800-473-3003. 

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