June 11, 2002

PAKISTAN SMALLPOX UPDATE: Several readers have emailed to suggest that the outbreak described by The Dawn is really monkeypox. Monkeypox has symptoms similar to smallpox and can be fatal. It’s found only in Africa, but has been discussed as a possible bioweapon, and there’s some evidence that Iraq has been working with it. Thus we might be dealing with an accidental release.

This is possible, though I believe that monkeypox is far less contagious than smallpox. That makes it more appealing as a bioweapon (smallpox is too contagious) but makes the likelihood of “rapidly spreading” cases due to accidental release less, it seems to me.

UPDATE: Reader Micael O’Ronain sends this link to a story with more information on monkeypox and biowar research thereon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this explanation, which I hope is true:

Another possibility that has surfaced is that measles is sometimes translated from the Arabic as “the small pox” – this evidently has led to many false alarms in the past. Measles would of course fit the symptomology described in the dawn.com article.

But would Pakistanis expect the government to do something about an outbreak of measles?

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