WHO supports U.S. in retaining smallpox

Members of the World Health Organization recently supported the efforts of the United States and Russia to hold onto the last known stockpiles of the smallpox virus in order to help combat potential terrorist efforts to acquire the disease.

More than 30 years ago, smallpox was eradicated, but the disease has been kept under tight security at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and in a similar Russian facility near Novisibirsk, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In an initial debate over one of the world’s deadliest pathogens in Geneva, the WHO’s executive board supported the position of the U.S. and Russia that the stocks were needed to finish developing drugs and vaccines to counter the disease should it be used in a bioterror attack or if it is accidentally released from unsanctioned stocks.

The group, made up of representatives of 34 countries, had been asked to debate whether or not enough research had been done on the disease to warrant setting up an initial deadline to destroy the stocks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Officials said that representatives from Europe and Africa, in addition to those from the U.S. and Russia, supported their retention.

Further debate will be held in May at the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly.