Has smallpox really disappeared from the earth?
Dr. Kris Gaublomme

The International Vaccination Newsletter, Dec 1997

 In 1982, the WHO advised a global vaccination moratorium against the smallpox vaccination because, they said, the disease appeared to have vanished from the earth. For another thing, the side-effects had become too obvious to maintain the traditional guidelines in favour of mass vaccination.

There are many questions about the role of the vaccine in the decline of the disease, a point which may be clarified in a later issue of IVN. However, it is questionable whether smallpox really was eradicated as we have been told. Some publications stated that the last smallpox virus had disappeared from this globe. But had it really?

Certainly not, since viruses were stored and even used in later experiments as ‘carrier molecules’ for an experimental AIDS vaccine. Some of the volunteers engaged by the Pasteur Institute died during the experiment from a smallpox-like illness (1). The institute managed to keep the information out of the front pages.

A new and embarrassing development was the resurgence of pox-family viruses in Africa, known as the ‘monkeypox’. This fact has been known for many years but the public was reassured that this had nothing to do with smallpox and that the human species was safe.

Not as safe as we were told,

though, since in the Congo in 1970, pox viruses were isolated from humans2 corresponding to the pox viruses found in captive monkeys in 1958 and identified the next year (3). It was baptised ‘monkeypox~. The same virus was isolated from 6 humans in 1959 by Foster. In 1976, Gipsen reported on more cases in Nigeria (4).

The terminology of the disease became ever more confusing, since what were at first simply ‘monkeypox’ are now introduced into literature as‘human monkeypox’. What, now, is the difference between smallpox and ‘human monkeypox’? It is interesting to read in a recent article in the Lancet that "Human monkeypox is a systemic exanthem, resembling smallpox, that occurs as a sporadic zoonosis in rural rainforest villages of western and central Africa. The disease is caused by an orthopoxvirus, which is transmitted to human beings by handling infected animals; serosurveys have implicated squirrels ... as the probable reservoir. Secondary human-to-human spread by aerosol or direct contact accounts for about 28% of cases..." (my emphasis)

So, let us make a simple addition. This virus is an ‘orthopox’ virus, which means, literally translated, a ‘real pox’ virus. This virus spreads among humans causing an exanthem ‘resembling’ smallpox, and causing disease and death among the infected (between February and August 1996, 71 cases were notified in the Katako-Kombe area in Zaire, 6 of which 4 died from the disease (5).

So what is the difference between smallpox and human monkeypox? The difference is a difference in protein structure. Nucleotide sequence analysis revealed different structures. But what does this really matter it both viruses affect us in the same way, spread in the same way, and cause the same eruptions and the same clinical disease? Scientists do, the victims don’t!

It is quite odd that the authors do not mention the smallpox vaccination status of the infected. All they mention is that in a ‘preliminary study’ none of the examined had a scar of smallpox vaccination. Which does not mean that they had not been vaccinated as the vaccine may not have ‘taken’. No figures are available about antibodies against smallpox, so that we have no real clue whether, in this study, the vaccine showed any protection against monkeypox or not. Many of the patients described elsewhere were vaccinated. Arita and Henderson (6) found 94 children with facial scarring caused by monkeypox; all except two who also showed scars typical for smallpox vaccination. So the least one can do is to question the protection offered by smallpox vaccination against the new monkey-pox virus.

Apparently the new virus is quite infectious, since 42 cases, including 3 deaths, were reported in a small village with only 346 inhabitants. The article further states that "present cluster of cases constitutes a reemergence of human monkeypox on a scale greater in magnitude than the approximate 65 annual cases previously indicated for Kasai Oriental, Bandundu, and Equateur regions from 1981 to 1986" and also that "it contains a more extensive occurrence of person-to-person transmission than previously recognised."

The conclusion of the authors is that" Because sequence analyses have indicated that Zairian monkeypox strains have not diverged greatly from the first isolate from the area in 1970 and monkeypox and smallpox variola viruses are independently evolved species (7), notions of monkeypox virus mutating into variola virus are unfounded." This does not sound very reassuring.

Former suggestions that "prolonged episodes or sustained cascades of transmission of human monkeypox would be unlikely" (8) do not hold up. Although the smallpox VIRUS appears to have died down a few decades ago, obviously the DISEASE is still present on this earth and able to make a come-back. Whether this is due to the mutation of the original virus or to a new virus that generates the same disease is a question that remains unanswered.

Another pillar of the vaccine dogma, it’s victory over smallpox, has fallen into pieces.


1. Personal communication with a staff member.

2. Mukinda, V.B.K.; et al Reemergence of human monkeypox in Zaire in 1996. Lancet, 1997; 349:1449-50

3. von Magnus, P.; et al A pox-like disease In cynomolgus monkeys. Acta Pathologica et Microbiologica Scandinavica, 1959; 46/2:156-76

4. Gipsen, R.; et al Monkeypoxspecific antibodies in human and simian sera from the ivory Coast and Nigeria. Bull, WHO, 1976; 53; 355-60 5. WHO. Monkeypox, Zaire. Widy Epidemiol Aec, 1996; 71:326

6. Arita, I.; Henderson, D.A.; Monkey-pox and whitepox viruses in West and Central Africa.Bull WHO, 1976; 53:347-53

7. Douglass, N.; Dumbell, K.R.; Independent evolution of monkeypox and variola viruses. J Virol, 1992; 66:7565-7

8. Jezek, Z.; Fenner, F.; Human monkeypox. Monographs In Virology Vol 17, J.L.Melnick, ed. Basel, Switzerland:Karger, 1988

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