NACCHO provides update on smallpox preparedness planning

Legislators conducted a congressional exercise on Sept. 8 to assess what decisions would have to be made in the event of an anthrax or smallpox attack.

Smallpox is considered a category A biological weapon due to its high morbidity and mortality rates and ease of transfer from person to person. Its eradication in 1980 has diminished the population’s vaccinated individuals and immunity to the virus as a whole.

According to the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), there should be a post-event plan in place that includes the identification, isolation and treatment of an outbreak, as well as a way to monitor contacts of infected individual. NACCHO also suggested that planning include mass vaccination and quarantine considerations.

Two facilities currently house viable smallpox strains: the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Russia's State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology. The World Health Organization determined in May 2014 that while live virus samples were unnecessary for vaccine and diagnostic development, they would be beneficial in the determination and creation of antiviral agents in the case of a large-scale outbreak.

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