Russia will not destroy smallpox virus

One of the world's two remaining stocks of smallpox strains, stored in Russia, will not be destroyed. | RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Sysoev

Pending the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to destroy smallpox virus stocks, the Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR) will not eliminate its stocks prematurely, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.
Since the smallpox virus was considered eradicated in 1980, two facilities have kept viable strains for research and prevention, VECTOR and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's high-containment lab in Atlanta.
Through global vaccination, the disease had its last natural occurrence in 1977. Despite this there are concerns of the virus being used in a bioterrorism context.
"The issue is being discussed, but I think that it will take long enough until the liquidation of the repositories. The threats persist and in order to have some working material to counter these threats, these sample strains should be (kept)," VECTOR Director Valery Mikheyev said.
The CDC reports that while the probability of an attack using smallpox is low, that there is enough of a vaccine stockpile that every person in the U.S. could be vaccinated. Similar techniques that were used to eradicate the disease naturally would be utilized should the virus be introduced, including mass vaccination and ring vaccination.

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