How to

1 September 2016

Scientists Fear Smallpox Outbreak as Arctic Permafrost Thaws

We discuss global warming quite heavily here at Keep Me Warm. With temperatures rising, ice sheets melting and sea levels creeping up, the world is set for one hell of a bumpy ride, but now scientists are becoming increasingly wary of yet another potentially deadly side-effect of this process: disease.

These stone ring patterns were made by melting permafrost
I’m not talking about your common cold here either. Locked within the arctic permafrost of Siberia, a whole host of ancient and extinct viruses could be patiently waiting for the time to once again unleash their menace upon the populations of this world, with scientists fearing that smallpox, once considered one of the worst endemics ever inflicted upon humanity, could be lurking among them.

This is obviously a startling revelation, although it’s not the first time we have heard about dangerous pathogens slumbering away within the permafrost. Just last year, the Mother Nature Network reported on scientists’ plans to revive a 30,000-year-old ‘giant’ virus, discovered lying dormant in the Siberian Arctic.

Smallpox victim in Bangladesh (1973)
If the smallpox virus is found living amongst the ice, it could have a devastating impact on unprepared populations. Before its eradication, smallpox reportedly claimed the lives of over 300 million people in the 20th century alone, and that’s only the unfortunate victims we know about. Urgent steps now need to be taken to determine the threat level posed by this prospect, and just what we can do to protect ourselves.

This is a particularly urgent matter, as smallpox has already reared its head in Siberia. The source stemmed from an outbreak of the virus around the year 1890. The bodies of those who lost their lives were buried along the banks of the Kolyma River. When recent high temperatures caused the permafrost to melt at an accelerated rate, some of these graves were exposed to the surface. Luckily, while smallpox sores were visibly present, no intact virus samples were found, but we may not be so fortunate next time.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.