Overview of the Threat
Smallpox is a contagious, acute, and most cases fatal diseases that is caused by an orthopozvirus variola virus. It symptoms include body and head aches, high fever, and in some cases vomiting. This is followed by a unique rash that spread in the body and eventually pus-filled blisters and bumps which scab, crust and fall off approximately three weeks after, leaving a bumpy scar. Although most people infected by the virus recover, the disease can cause 30% death to the total number of the infected individuals. Majority of survivors are left with permanent scars on most parts of their skin particularly face while some turn blind. There is no yet any treatment for the disease though there is vaccine. The only possible measures are drugs to control fever and antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infection. However, research is going on to establish possible cure for the disease (CDC, 2009).
Smallpox is spread through fairly and direct prolonged physical contact. The virus can also be spread via air in enclosed environment such as trains, buses, and buildings. However, it can also be spread via direct contact with contaminated object that include clothing and bedding or infected fluids from dead bodies. The disease is infectious during the fever onset and turns to be more contagious on rash onset. One remains contagious until the last scab of the disease falls off. The disease has incubation period of about 12 days. Previous research demonstrates that administration of smallpox vaccine within 4 or 3 days after exposure could substantially reduce the disease severity or abort the disease despite of the immunity level of an individuals. The disease was said to be eradicated in 1980 though the United States government has been taking precautions regarding the possibility of its use as a bioterrorist weapon since 2001 terrorist event in the country (CDC, 2009). The current threat should thus be taken serious and preventive measures employed. The possible means of spreading the virus is through air in enclosed settings. Therefore the public should consider avoiding mall and other enclosed regions one week from now.
Prevention of Mass Hysteria within the Population
Mass hysteria refers to swift development of heighted anxiety and fear that translates into immense disruption to the activities and behavior of the involved individuals. Mass hysteria can be very destructive and thus, it should be prevented. The best way to prevent mass hysteria is by identifying the best channel to alert the public about the threat and the right message to give structured in the right way (Balaratnasingam & Janca, 2006). Therefore, the government should ensure that this information is not reported carelessly by the media. Instead, the government should call for a media briefing and address the Los Angeles’ state and the nation in general.
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