E.R.'s final episode last spring ended with two children hospitalized with Smallpox, a disease that was wiped out years ago, but could be unleashed again as a biological weapon. Of course, that story is fictional, but the reality is that the Centers of Disease Control outlined an emergency plan for vaccinating every person in the U.S. in the event of a real life Smallpox outbreak.
Under the plan, up to 75 million doses of vaccine could be shipped in a single day, with 280 million doses going out from the nation's pharmaceutical stockpile within a week. A manual has been sent to health commissioners in all U.S. states. It details the logistics for distributing the vaccine, specifying the types of coolers in which it would be stored and shipped, how many doses would go to each clinic, and at what temperature it should be kept refrigerated.
Dr. Walter Orenstein, the Director of the CDC's National Immunization Program says their goal is to increase preparedness. "The new version of the plan that was just released has a number of changes, but the main one is to provide a template for state and localities to develop a mass vaccination capacity if necessary in the event of an attack."
That means even public places from malls to sporting venues and schools could be enlisted as Smallpox inoculation sites if needed to be. The disease is highly infectious, much like a cold, from coughing, sneezing, droplets in the air.
The CDC says Smallpox kills about 30% of its victims, but those who survive end up with terrible scars from oozing blisters mainly on the face and limbs.
Routine Smallpox vaccinations stopped in the U.S. In 1972 and Smallpox was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. Only the U.S. and Russia have confirmed supplies of the Smallpox virus. Experts worry any outbreak would signal that terrorists had acquired the virus and that mass inoculation would be the only prudent response. Most of the U.S. Population is now considered vulnerable to the virus, which is marked by oozing blisters. Smallpox kills about 30% of its victims and the vaccination itself can, in some cases, cause a potentially deadly inflammation.
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