variola

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“Hey, has anyone seen my Snapple I left it here OH MY GOD IT’S F—ING SMALLPOX”

We found some forgotten variola (smallpox) at the FDA laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland! They were fully sealed and there’s no evidence of tampering, and are now located at the secure BSL-4 CDC laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia, where the rest of the US stockpile is located.

The last naturally-occurring Variola major case was in a Bangladeshi girl in 1975, and the last Variola minor case was in a hospital cook in Somalia, in 1977. Eradication was complete by early 1978, and was formally declared in 1980.

In late 1978, a medical photographer became infected by a smallpox sample kept at the University of Birmingham, and subsequently died from the disease. One other person also became infected, but survived. The researcher who was overseeing the photography operation was distraught and committed suicide soon after the photographer’s death. After this, the WHO strongly encouraged all countries to destroy their stockpiles of smallpox.

There was significant resistance to the recommendation and pressure by both Russia and the United States, and today there are two formally declared laboratories that have the live virus - the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, and VECTOR in Koltsovo, Russia.

Having worked in several labs, there’s this fear of throwing things out that people might one day come back and need, or want to use again. Even samples that we can hardly identify, waaaaay back in the -80C freezers, get kept around unless we know what they are and who was using them and that they wish to destroy the sample or declare it unsuitable for future research. Stuff gets shoved to the back, and you don’t look at it for years or sometimes decades. There are some truly bizarre things to be found when cleaning old freezers…but hopefully I never come across something like this.

There are probably more smallpox samples out there, in former Soviet states, and in the US. Hopefully they’re all as well-sealed and safe as this one was.

Via The Mary Sue/@pourmecoffee

Oops! Smallpox Virus Found In Unsecured NIH Lab

by Richard Harris/NPR

Sure, we all forget stuff. But federal researchers apparently forgot vials of smallpox virus, perhaps for 60 years.

Scientists cleaning out an old laboratory on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md., last week came across a startling discovery: vials labeled “variola” — in other words, smallpox.

Click to see more images of the Smallpox Virus

Under international convention, there are supposed to be only two stashes of this deadly virus: one at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and another at a similar facility in Russia.

The CDC swooped in to collect the vials and carted them off to a secure lab at its Atlanta headquarters.

In a statement Tuesday, the agency said scientists did indeed find smallpox DNA in the vials. Scientists are now testing the sample to see whether any of the smallpox virus is still capable of causing disease. That testing will take two weeks.

The laboratory on the NIH campus had been transferred to the Food and Drug Administration in 1972. It was being cleaned out as the FDA was preparing to move that lab to its main campus.

“There is no evidence that any of the vials labeled variola has been breached,” the CDC said in the statement, “and onsite biosafety personnel have not identified any infectious exposure risk to lab workers or the public.”

Read the entire article

Image above © CDC/Science Source

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The Variola virus, better known as smallpox is one of the viruses responsible for killing off approx. 95% of the indigenous American population, including Inca Huayna Capac. It often preceded Europeans themselves who found an almost empty continent fit for colonization. Compare this fact to the colonization of Asia and Africa, where the native peoples were for the most part as resistent to this virus as the Europeans. The large populations there made it harder for European powers to colonize. Imagine how the world would’ve looked like if the Indian Americans had at least some kind of resistance and see their societies survive…

You know how poor teenagers and some adults worry about their terrible acne? I can say i relate. But I sure you it could be worse. A zit that appears on the forehead right before school pictures. Using makeup to try and cover up blemishes before a big date. You know the works. Well, despite the fountains of anti-acne solutions some people need, know that it could always be worse.

You see this babe with pustules growing all over the surface of its skin? That’s not just dirt and bacteria, that’s a viral infection; variola major, or smallpox to be exact. You see, it takes between 7 to 17 days after infection for symptoms to appear. The rash appears 2 or 3 days after the first signs and it developes virus-filled sores that scab up. At this point the virus reaches a contagious stage and moves to the mucous membranes. The inflicted individual is infectious for about 3 weeks, spreading contaminated cells by coughing, sneezing, or shedding scabs. Any patients that do survive are often left with disfiguring scars all over their skin.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll stick to the proactive washes anyday

Why Destroy What We Don't Know??

Variola Major should not be destroyed completely.
Variola Major should not be destroyed completely.
Variola Major should not be destroyed completely.

Variola Major is a virus that causes the disease Smallpox, also known in most history books as the red plague, which was spread mostly by inhalation.

It was a devastating disease that started with at first, incubation phase. It has no symptoms and the host feels fine. It lasts 7 to 17 days and has no transmission whatsoever.

The second phase of Smallpox is the Initial Symptoms, which included fever, malaise*, head and body aches, as well as occasional vomiting. This typically lasts 2 to 4 days.

After this however, comes the third, and most contagious stage, the Early Rash. This stage lasts for four days, and during it the host gets a rash with small spots on the tongue and in the mouth, which develop into sores that break open and spread large amounts of the virus in the mouth and throat. Around the time of this, a rash appears on the face, which spreads to the arms, legs, hands and feet, in that order. This takes about 24 hours. During the time of this, the person’s fever breaks and they may feel better.

On the third day of the rash, it becomes raised bumps. The day after, the bumps fill with a thick, opaque liquid that has a depression in the center, much like a bellybutton or molar tooth. This is one of the major features of Smallpox. By this time, the fever returns until the scabs appear.

The stage after this is the Pustular Rash, which lasts about 5 days, in which the host’s scabs become pustules - sharply raised bumps that feel like something is under the skin. Some say it’s like BB pellets in the skin.

After this, the next phase is Pustules and Scabs, which lasts 5 days. The pustules begin to crust and scab, by the 2nd week after the rash appears, most of the sores have scabbed over.

The final phase is Resolving Scabs, which durates 6 days. The scabs fall off, leaving what will eventually be pitted scars, 3 weeks after the rash the scabs all fall off. When all the scabs are gone, the person is no longer contagious. 

This may seem like a ‘good riddance’ disease, but we still have so much to know about Smallpox, and Variola in general. It’s claimed to be fully researched, but that’s what plague doctors believed about the bubonic plague, and they used 'nurses’, women who basically just went into buildings and asked 'are you holding up?’, as well as giving the better paying people food, while stealing from the victim’s homes.

If you think about it, one of the reasons people want to destroy Variola Major is fear of bioterrorism, but this can also mean that someone may have stolen it earlier in storage. We could have a group of people out there right now, mutating the virus in hopes we’ll destroy our only hope of combating it.

I am Reina Skyes and this is why I believe Variola Major should be kept in storage.


Sources -

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/overview/disease-facts.asp

http://www.labelle.org/top_diseases.html

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/plague_of_1665.htm