Smallpox as a biological weapon: medical and public health management. Working Group on Civilian Biodefense

JAMA. 1999 Jun 9;281(22):2127-37. doi: 10.1001/jama.281.22.2127.


Objective: To develop consensus-based recommendations for measures to be taken by medical and public health professionals following the use of smallpox as a biological weapon against a civilian population.

Participants: The working group included 21 representatives from staff of major medical centers and research, government, military, public health, and emergency management institutions and agencies. Evidence The first author (D.A.H.) conducted a literature search in conjunction with the preparation of another publication on smallpox as well as this article. The literature identified was reviewed and opinions were sought from experts in the diagnosis and management of smallpox, including members of the working group.

Consensus process: The first draft of the consensus statement was a synthesis of information obtained in the evidence-gathering process. Members of the working group provided formal written comments that were incorporated into the second draft of the statement. The working group reviewed the second draft on October 30, 1998. No significant disagreements existed and comments were incorporated into a third draft. The fourth and final statement incorporates all relevant evidence obtained by the literature search in conjunction with final consensus recommendations supported by all working group members.

Conclusions: Specific recommendations are made regarding smallpox vaccination, therapy, postexposure isolation and infection control, hospital epidemiology and infection control, home care, decontamination of the environment, and additional research needs. In the event of an actual release of smallpox and subsequent epidemic, early detection, isolation of infected individuals, surveillance of contacts, and a focused selective vaccination program will be the essential items of an effective control program.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Warfare* / history
  • Biological Warfare* / prevention & control
  • Communicable Disease Control / standards*
  • Decontamination
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive / adverse effects
  • Immunoglobulins / administration & dosage
  • Immunoglobulins / adverse effects
  • Infection Control
  • Research
  • Smallpox / epidemiology
  • Smallpox / history
  • Smallpox / physiopathology
  • Smallpox / prevention & control*
  • Smallpox Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Smallpox Vaccine / adverse effects
  • Smallpox Vaccine / history
  • Vaccination / adverse effects
  • Variola virus / pathogenicity


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Smallpox Vaccine