Smallpox is a deadly disease that has been around for thousands of years. It was declared eradicated in 1980 following a worldwide vaccination effort. The last naturally occurring case of the disease was in Somalia in 1977. Currently, the variola virus that causes smallpox only exists in two laboratories, one in Russia, the other in the U.S.
Following the terrorist events of September, 2001, there was concern that the variola virus could be used as an agent of bioterrorism. In response, the U.S. government launched a campaign to vaccinate key health care providers and public health workers against smallpox. The government also stockpiled enough smallpox vaccine to vaccinate every person in the U.S. in case of such an attack.
Could smallpox be used as a bioterror weapon?
Worldwide vaccination efforts eradicated smallpox in the 1980s. However, in 2002, the CDC led a program to vaccinate key health care workers across the country, in preparation for a potential smallpox-related bioterrorism event.
Information for Healthcare Providers
Technical information on the types of smallpox disease, information on reporting smallpox to MDH, and links to CDC's smallpox clinical materials.