Ministers Target Global Smallpox Terror Threat

Article excerpt

Health ministers from around the world have agreed an action plan to prepare for any deliberate release of the smallpox virus by terrorists, it has emerged.

Global stocks of smallpox vaccine are to be increased, to allow the World Health Organisation to respond to emergencies in any country.

An international smallpox emergency exercise is to be held in June next year, to test the world's readiness to deal with an outbreak of the disease, which was eradicated in its natural form decades ago.

And a new Global Health Security Laboratory Network is to be set up to co-ordinate health surveillance and responses to disease outbreaks around the world.

A deliberate release of smallpox would have 'devastating' consequences for the world's population, particularly in poorer countries, said ministers including Britain's Health Secretary Alan Milburn in a communique drawn up at the end of a WHO meeting in Mexico City, and released yesterday by the Department of Health.

The meeting came just days after it was revealed that selected groups of specialist health workers and military personnel in the UK are to be vaccinated against smallpox. …