Global Warming to Release Smallpox Virus from Corpses; Gruesome Global Pandemic Looming?

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By Reissa Su | March 11, 2014 6:09 PM EST

Smallpox was one of the most feared diseases in the world since it could cover the human body with painful and pus-filled rashes. Since its elimination in 1979, scientists now fear that smallpox and a host of other diseases could reemerge and spread again because of the thawing corpses in Siberia.

Several scientists have expressed fears that defrosting dead bodies in Siberia could restart a cycle of infection should a live person come in contact with contaminated remains. According to reports, scientists have raised this concern for years, but the recent discovery of a 30,000-year-old virus in Siberian permafrost has prompted the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) to warn of the possibility of a smallpox epidemic.

In another report, BBC questioned the idea of a frozen human corpse which had smallpox spreading the virus into the environment. Scientists fear that if such an idea was possible, it could be the beginning of a global pandemic.

Other researchers speculated that the diseases could be in a state of suspended animation just waiting for their host body to be thawed by global warming.

In 2002, author Richard Stone wrote about a place near the Kolyma River in north eastern Siberia. It was there that authorities had gathered a group of people to investigate the corpses buried in the 18th century. The bodies had smallpox scars and officials expressed concern that floods could release the smallpox virus.

Mr Stone wrote that researchers had peeled away a few layers of deerskin clothing from a mummified child to revealed "blackened skin pocked with blemishes" caused by smallpox. As researchers sliced open the corpse's leg, "liquid oozes from the spongy flesh."

The research team had disinfected the opened burial site to prevent anyone who had accidentally come in contact with the virus to carry it out.

Smallpox wreaked havoc to the Arctic population and other regions. Scientists said the virus could have survived in the ice-cold region because of the freezing temperatures. Other experts believe that frozen bodies can be a "fertile ground" for the virus to thrive.

In a 20th century alone, 300 million had died from smallpox. The disease cannot be cured but a vaccine can be given to prevent the onslaught of infection for infection up to four days.

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