Federal Officials Draft Quarantine Plan to Address Potential Smallpox Exposure
Federal health officials are "quietly" drafting plans for quarantining Americans in the event they are exposed to smallpox, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. The plans, which are still in the development stage, address the "sensitive question" of where people would be quarantined while health officials worked to confirm a smallpox case. Officials are recommending that people remain in quarantine, where vaccines and other treatments would be available, but they have yet to decide how long people should be held. Options range from one to two days -- long enough to provide vaccinations -- to 17 days, after which people would no longer be contagious. In the next few weeks, the plan will be circulated among top federal officials. Marty Cetron, a CDC quarantine expert, said, "It's not pretty to think through these type of doomsday scenarios, but it's important to start to put yourself there and imagine things unfolding if you want to anticipate how to react" (Meckler, AP/Contra Costa Times, 7/9).
In related news, scientists yesterday started testing the effectiveness of smallpox vaccines on more than 300 volunteers, the Los Angeles Times reports (Pacio, Los Angeles Times, 7/9). Two types of vaccine will be part of the trial, including a 20-year-old vaccine called Dryvax (Elias, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7/9). Researchers also will test a vaccine produced by Aventis Pasteur that has been frozen since the 1950s. Volunteers in the trial will keep a daily log of their symptoms and return for checkups for the next six months. If the study determines that the vaccines are effective, they could be diluted to create an emergency supply in the event of a smallpox outbreak (Los Angeles Times, 7/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.