Smallpox stockpile needed to create better vaccine, expert says

With the World Health Assembly set for May and a smallpox debate already underway, the two known holders of the virus - the United States and Russia - find themselves in a precarious diplomatic position.

Dozens of nations are currently of the opinion to destroy the remaining stockpiles of the deadly virus, which resides in the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and a laboratory in Russia, Apria Healthcare reports.

Recent discussions by the executive board of the World Health Organization seem to be learning towards a recommendation of destruction, while the U.S. and Russia are holding the position that better vaccines need to be developed.

"If the U.S. maintains its current position on indefinite retention of the live virus, I can foresee a diplomatic train wreck at the World Health Assembly in May," Jonathan B. Tucker, the author of Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox, said, according to Apria Healthcare.

The U.S. keeps the virus under tighter security than other biological agents like anthrax. Only 10 people have access to it. The current vaccine, which the U.S. has nearly 350 million doses of, cannot be taken by those with egg allergies or compromised immune systems.

"More work has to be done on the vaccine," David Daigle, a CDC spokesman, said, according to Apria Healthcare. "We want to make a better vaccine without side effects, and we have much more work to be done [with developing] antivirals."

Smallpox is acute, contagious and potentially fatal. It is marked by a progressive, distinctive skin rash and a fever. Other symptoms include body aches and vomiting. Death occurrs in up to 30 percent of cases. The disease was eradicated from the world in 1980.