Dave Pollard's environmental philosophy, creative works, business papers and essays.
In search of a better way to live and make a living, and a better understanding of how the world really works.



February 18, 2003

THE DEMON IN THE FREEZER

Filed under: Our Culture / Ourselves,Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 13:18
smallpox I highly recommend Richard Preston’s investigative report into the Anthrax scare and the dangers of Smallpox as a WMD, The Demon in the Freezer , his first book since The Hot Zone, which explained Ebola and related viruses and how close they came to infecting the U.S.

Preston’s work is terrifying, all the more because his details of incompetence and carelessness in the handling of these lethal substances have not been refuted by any of the officials and scientists explicitly named in his books. It is also fascinating, because he delves into the history of these diseases and unearths some astonishing facts that I’ve never seen in the media. For example:

  • When the Anthrax scare occurred, top scientists, epidemiologists and security forces immediately wanted to know one thing above all else: was the weaponized (separated into extremely fine, airborne particles, a highly sophisticated process) Anthrax used as a carrier for Smallpox ? Whereas as we now know weaponized Anthrax spreads very rapidly, it can be a very effective carrier for Smallpox, which is much, much more contageous and lethal than Anthrax. The two in combination would, according to Preston, be almost impossible to stop.
  • The U.S. destroyed almost all its Smallpox vaccine in the 1970s after the disease was officially eradicated worldwide, and after the USSR (which was largely responsible for eradication of the disease in the Third World) and U.S. jointly agreed to minimize and contain all remaining samples in a few locations, subject to mutual inspection and verification. They then discovered that after the collapse of the USSR large amounts of weaponized Smallpox went, and remain, missing. Reliable intelligence suggests many countries remain in possession of Smallpox, much of it collected before the 1970s by local medical authorities for research into its eradication. Smallpox is easy to amplify (replicate), so not much is needed to create a lot.
  • Immunization for Smallpox is a dangerous process, since a significant proportion of the population cannot take the vaccine (e.g. those with immune deficiency or some common skin ailments), and some people immunized actually get the disease anyway.
  • Smallpox is just one of thousands of related Pox diseases that affect almost every form of life on Earth. Were it not for the existence of insect Poxes, for example, some insects would multiply so quickly that they would extinguish many other forms of life and unbalance the web of life in a matter of weeks before starvation could bring their numbers under control. Many forms of life on Earth are affected by more than one kind of Pox, but each Pox efficiently and effectively targets only one species. Since they only spread rapidly in large, like populations in close proximity, Poxes are, in a real sense, God’s natural ‘population control’ mechanism.
  • There is a raging debate in the scientific community on whether Poxes from one species can evolve over time, or be ‘repurposed’, to target another species. So even if all the Smallpox remaining in the world (all of it, except the U.S. and Russian supplies, officially illegal) were somehow tracked down and eradicated, the risk could well remain. Why the U.S. and Russia have insisted on keeping samples of the disease when it is not needed to create the vaccine (the vaccine actually comes from Cowpox, which is harmless, at least for now in its current state, to humans) has not been satisfactorily answered.
  • Some people seem to be naturally immune to viruses like Smallpox and the Plague. The theory is that, by Darwinian selection in the middle ages when bubonic and pneumonic Plague swept the Earth, most of the survivors had this naturally immunity, and their heirs now make up a significant portion of the Western population. Some even say that this Plague immunity also conveys immunity to AIDS, and had it not been for the Black Plague epidemic, the death toll from AIDS in Europe and the Americas would have been vastly higher.

Something to think about to take your mind off North Korea and Iraq (oops, no, they both reportedly bought Smallpox from the Russians and/or the CIA when they were allies of those countries).

1 Comment

  1. You’re right, the book is excellent. I have one reservation about it, however, and that is Preston’s claim about half way through that the inspectors were “thrown out” of Iraq.Let’s be clear: the inspectors were ordered out of Iraq by the US so they could wage a bombing campaign. The “thrown out” meme is a complete lie. But needless to say since it was congruent with much of the other propaganda about Iraq that led to the support for the war in the US, it was an “encouraged” lie.

    Comment by John — August 12, 2003 @ 11:10

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