Nation Better Prepared for Smallpox Attack Than Last Year, HHS Official Says
The nation is "far better prepared" to handle a potential smallpox attack than it was a year ago, according to HHS Office of Public Health Preparedness Director Dr. D.A. Henderson, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Speaking yesterday at a two-day international symposium on emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism at the University of California-Davis, Henderson said that the number of "immediately useable" doses of smallpox vaccine has increased from 90,000 to hundreds of millions because of the recovery of "decades-old" supplies and the dilution of existing stocks. In addition, local and state health officials nationwide are more prepared to spot and respond to a smallpox outbreak, according to Henderson. "It's been miraculous. We now feel much better than we did a year ago," he said. Henderson, who "played a central role" in eradicating natural cases of smallpox in the 1970s, "downplayed the credibility of science-fictionish fears" of a genetically engineered version of the virus, adding that development of such a virus would be "very difficult," the Chronicle reports (Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6). However, Henderson said that he and others who have treated smallpox cases are "concerned" about "how widely" the government vaccinates against the virus (Widener, Contra Costa Times, 12/6). He noted that the Bush administration will likely release its smallpox vaccination plan within a week (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6).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.