Emergency Physicians Warn Threat is Real in Smallpox Movie

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The documentary style movie Smallpox airing on the FX Network this weekend offers what may be a terrifying and realistic look at the potential vulnerability and consequences of a bioterrorist attack.


The anthrax attacks in 2001 showed just how vulnerable the U.S. population is to bioterrorism, said Dr. Robert E. Suter, DO, president of American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). As was clear during the SARS epidemic, negative-pressure respiratory isolation rooms that prevent the disease from spreading within hospitals are needed to control infectious diseases.  Most hospitals in the United States have one or two of these rooms, clearly not adequate in the face of a widespread outbreak. 


Facts About Smallpox


·       Smallpox is a serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox, and the only prevention is vaccination


·       According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), direct and fairly prolonged face-to-face contact is generally required to spread smallpox from person to person. Smallpox also can be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing. Rarely, smallpox has been spread by virus carried in the air in enclosed settings such as buildings, buses, and trains. Smallpox is not known to be transmitted by insects or animals, other than humans.


·       The last naturally occurring case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949.  The last known case in the world was in Somalia in 1977. The only known remaining sources of the virus that causes Smallpox are in carefully guarded labs in the United States and in Russia.. In 1980, the World Health Organization declared the disease eradicated. 


·       After the disease was eliminated from the world, routine vaccination against smallpox among the general public was stopped because it was no longer necessary for prevention. The United States stopped vaccinating the general population against Smallpox in 1972.


The American College of Emergency Medicine (ACEP) is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. With nearly 23,000 members, ACEP is committed to improving the quality of emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.


Source: ACEP