Sun Aug 4 11:51:59 CDT 1996

More things,

On this nice summer weekend, I encountered two neighbors who are both
physicians.  One, a general surgeon, the other a cardiologist who also
has a general practice and is what we call a Primary Care Physician.  I
mentioned to them that there was some on-going discussion on the
internet regarding the fate of the last stocks of the smallpox virus
and whether or not they should be destroyed or retained for possible
research or simply retained in order to preserve another piece of

Both seemed surprised about the issue, but admitted they had not
thought about smallpox in a very long time.  Both were not too
concerned about keeping stocks of the organism because a vaccine was
available to ward it off.  Neither knew the whereabouts of any vaccine,
but were confident that sufficient stockpiles were around or if not,
could be easily produced because it is made from a related virus. They
noted the annual production of different enfluenza vaccines as examples
of the capacity to produce vaccines rapidly if needed. Between us, we
estimated that smallpox vaccinations more or less ceased or were no
longer required in the U.S.about 20-25 yrs ago.

The surgeon noted that he was less concerned about communicable
diseases, which could be either vaccinated or isolated against, but
that cancer was beginning to overwhelm his surgical practice in terms
of percentages.  The cardiologist noted the same thing in his general
practice.  While conducting physical examinations, he expends a great
deal of effort to ensure that all methods of early detection are made
available and known to his patients.  He indicated that communicable
diseases could be avoided, that he could prescribe programs to avoid
heart trouble, but that there was nothing similar available to avoid
cancer except a variety of early detection techniques.  Both physicians
expressed a certain amount of dismay about what appears to them an
increasing incidence of cancer encountered in their patients.

Last evening, I got a call from my cousin, a researcher, who has
conducted studies on malaria and is well versed in some of the
traditional diseases.  He knew about the smallpox stockpile issues, and
felt very strongly that some of the virus should be retained for future

So, I guess the issue of destruction of smallpox stocks is not such a
big deal.  If once controlled, it could be again if necessary.  I
change my tune, keep it around, but ensure that it will not
accidentally or intentionally be released from confinement.  However,
this discussion may be moot, because I think the decision to destroy
the stocks may have already been made.

Jim Blake
(jablake at

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