Smallpox as a Bioweapon

Although naturally occurring smallpox has been eradicated, there is still heightened concern that the variola virus might be used as an agent of bioterrorism. The concept of using variola virus in warfare is an old one.  If a strain of the variola virus could be obtained from the existing stockpile, it could be weaponized easily and disseminated widely in an aerosol release. An intentional or accidental release of smallpox could escalate to a catastrophic global epidemic unless effective control measures could be implemented quickly. Smallpox has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a "Category A" agent, meaning it has been given high priority due to its potential threat to national security. The following references provide information on the use of smallpox as a bioweapon and associated issues to be considered during a smallpox outbreak.

  • Smallpox. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Contains extensive smallpox information, including fact sheets, overviews, FAQs, diagnosis and evaluation, infection control, laboratory testing, surveillance and investigation, selected publications, and education and training materials.
  • Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare: Chapter 27 - Smallpox. U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Provides a thorough review of smallpox, including its history and epidemiology, as well as biological warfare and clinical issues.
  • Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook, Ninth Edition. U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Contains specific information on a number of potential bioterrorist agents.