The alarming global (potential) spread of smallpox is revealed in a research study published in Scientific Reports which considers human mobility patterns in it’s findings.

Using a large-scale population model, they simulated the global spread of smallpox after an intentional release event, which showed that potential outbreaks can occur in different continents even before the detection of the pathogen release

In the report titled, “Human mobility and the worldwide impact of intentional localized highly pathogenic virus release”, it states the following:

In recent years, public health officials have been increasingly alert to the possibility of biological weapon use through an act of bioterrorism.

Among potential pathogenic agents, smallpox poses one of the greatest risks.

While smallpox has been eradicated in 1980, many experts believe that smallpox virus could exist outside the official institutes in the US and Russia.

The smallpox virus is highly pathogenic, and its intentional release into a population that is now largely susceptible can create a tremendous amount of social disruption and fatality.

-Nature Publishing Group, Scientific Reports

One of the significant takeaways from the report is encompassed in a statement by one of the study researchers, Alessandro Vespig­nani, who said,

Before you even realize there is an outbreak, it might already be in other places. That changes the game;” “The problem is that most of those studies (previous studies) don’t consider the global dimensions of the event.”

In one scenario, five individuals successfully infect themselves with the virus in a major Western metropolis (London). These individuals move freely within the city (avoiding detection) and expose civilians to infection. The five individuals follow a deliberate release strategy and do not attempt international travel in order to limit the possibility of detection and they do not seek medical care. In the model, those agents follow just local mobility and keep on transmitting the disease.

Within 7 days, nearly 10 countries are affected. In two weeks, nearly 15 countries. And this is all apparently before detection.

Worldwide location of risk areas (in the event of the intentional release)

Smallpox virus in London

2 Weeks after detection:
Image basis: Nature Publishing Group, Scientific Reports

So, what can we do with this information?

Be aware that a Smallpox bio-terrorism attack will apparently spread very quickly before it is detected, which will mean that once it is detected, panic and social chaos will greatly lessen your time to prepare.

This means that you should prepare now, ahead of time.

How to prepare for a pandemic?

Know that it will eventually pass. It will be paramount that you avoid contact with others. This means that you will need to survive with the food and supplies that you’ve stocked at home so that you will not have to go out and interact with the public and risk contagion.

What about your “job”? What if I go to work?

That is a good question, and will be difficult for many to answer. Most people live paycheck-to-paycheck and would have a difficult time without it for awhile. Others may lose their job if they choose not to go to work. It will require a personal decision to weigh the risks, depending on the outbreak.

It’s best to adjust your living standard so that you are not entirely dependent upon your next paycheck, and to have reserves (cash, food and supplies) to survive for a time on your own.

The study, and source of the article quotes (PDF)

Want to read an eye-opening book on this subject?
The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story

On December 9, 1979, smallpox, the most deadly human virus, ceased to exist in nature. After eradication, it was confined to freezers located in just two places on earth: the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Maximum Containment Laboratory in Siberia. But these final samples were not destroyed at that time, and now secret stockpiles of smallpox surely exist. For example, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the subsequent end of its biological weapons program, a sizeable amount of the former Soviet Union’s smallpox stockpile remains unaccounted for, leading to fears that the virus has fallen into the hands of nations or terrorist groups willing to use it as a weapon. Scarier yet, some may even be trying to develop a strain that is resistant to vaccines. This disturbing reality is the focus of this fascinating, terrifying, and important book.

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