No small threat

Published: Saturday 31 October 1998

All stocks of smallpox virus in laboratories should be destroyed as soon as possible, scientists in the US have warned. No one has been immunised against the once-fatal disease for more than two decades now. And hardly any facilities for making the vaccine still exist, says Donald Henderson, epidemiologist at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. "We are in an extremely vulnerable position in regard to the disease," he adds. Henderson and his colleague Joel Bremen of the US National Institute of Health have called on the World Health Organisation to issue orders to doctors all over the world to destroy all remaining smallpox viruses by 1999 (The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol339,p556).

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