8,000 – 1,000 B.C.E. Trans-species jump of smallpox virus (variola) from an unknown animal host into the human species.
1157 B.C.E. Death of Pharaoh Ramses V, possibly of smallpox
430 B.C.E. The Plague of Athens during the Pelopponesian War. May have been smallpox.
340 C.E. The Chinese medical doctor Ho Kung gives an exact description of smallpox and says it came into China “from the west” around C.E. 40.
300-400 C.E. Smallpox may have caused a decline in the population of Italy, weakening the Roman empire and making it more vulnerable to Barbarian attacks.
910 C.E. The Persian medical doctor al-Razi (Rhazes) sees a lot of smallpox while he’s the director of the Bagdhad Hospital.
1000 C.E. Smallpox becomes endemic in Japan.
1520 Captain Panfilo de Narvaez lands in Mexico near Veracruz. Smallpox escapes from an African slave who is a member of his party and begins to spread through Mexico, central America, and south America, ultimately killing roughly half the native American population of those areas.
1763 During the Siege of Detroit (part of the French and Indian War), British commander Sir Jeffrey Amherst orders his men to infect the Ottawa tribes under Chief Pontiac with smallpox. Smallpox then rages down the Ohio Valley, killing many innocent civilian native Americans. This is the first known deliberate use of smallpox as a strategic biological weapon.
May 14, 1796. English doctor Edward Jenner demonstrates the efficacy of his smallpox vaccine.
1801 Edward Jenner predicts the eradication of smallpox.
1958 Soviet public health doctor Viktor Zdanov calls for the eradication of smallpox at the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly.
1965 Evolutionary biologist Rene Dubos, in his famous book Man Adapting, confidently predicts that no virus or microbe will ever be eradicated from nature.
1966 Donald Ainslie (D. A.) Henderson appointed head of the Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP) of the World Health Organization, in Geneva, with a ten-year mission to eradicate smallpox.
November, 1966. Dr. William H. Foege of the SEP pioneers the surveillance and ring-vaccination containment strategy for controlling outbreaks of smallpox. He does this during a smallpox outbreak in Nigeria when he and his team run out of sufficient vaccine to mass vaccinate everyone in the area.
1970. Devastating typhoon hits Bhola Island in the Bay of Bengal, in what is now Bangladesh.
1970-71. Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Brilliant and Wavy Gravy and their wives set out in two buses to drive across Asia and deliver medical supplies to Bhola Island. They end up leaving their buses in Katmandu, Nepal.
1972 Larry Brilliant joins the Smallpox Eradication Program.
1974 The Tatanagar Station outbreak of smallpox, epicentered in Bihar, India.
January – May, 1975 The last large outbreak of variola major on earth, in Bangladesh.
November, 1975. Dr. Stanly O. Foster finds the world’s last natural case of variola major: a three-year-old girl named Rahima Banu, on Bhola Island, Bangladesh.
Christmas, 1975 CDC pox virologist Joseph Esposito freezes six scabs from Rahima Banu in the smallpox reference freezer at the CDC in Atlanta. This is the Rahima strain of smallpox.
October, 1977 Ali Maow Maalin of Somalia has the last case of variola minor—the last natural case of smallpox on earth.
August, 1978. Janet Parker, of Birmingham, England, contracts smallpox from the laboratory of Henry Bedson, a smallpox researcher.
September, 1978. Henry Bedson commits suicide by slitting his throat with a pair of scissors. Janet Parker and her father die.
December 9, 1979 Official date of the WHO certification of the global eradication of smallpox.
1987-1990 Soviet missile tests of a MIRV ICBM missile system for delivering weapons-grade smallpox in warheads to cities in North America.
1980? -1989 Soviet military biologists are storing at least one, and possibly two, twenty-ton stockpiles of frozen smallpox for use as a strategic weapon, in bombs and ICBM missile warheads
October 27, 1989 Dr. Christoper J. Davis, an analyst with British intelligence, has the first major insight into the fact that the Soviet Union has a strategic biological weapons program, with the contagious weapons smallpox and plague. He will receive an Order of the British Empire for his insight.
1990 Scientists at Vector, a Soviet virology complex in Siberia, allegedly develop a new method for mass-producing tonnage quantities of smallpox for loading into weapons systems.
1990 U.S. public health officials debate whether the known stocks of smallpox should be destroyed, which would presumably make smallpox extinct as a species. (They don’t know about the Soviet biowarfare program with smallpox.)
1991 The WHO destroys 99.75 % of its stockpile of smallpox vaccine, leaving the WHO with a total of one dose of vaccine for every twelve thousand people on earth.
January, 1991 Secret team of biological weapons inspectors from the United States and Britain tours some of the scientific facilities of Biopreparat, the Soviet Union’s vast, secret biowarfare program. They discover evidence that scientists at Vector, the Biopreparat virology facility in Siberia, have been working with smallpox as a biological weapon.
December, 1991 Fall of the Soviet government and breakup of the Soviet Union. Establishment of the Russian Federation.
1991 By the account of Russian scientists, North Korea acquires a Russian strain of smallpox, either by theft or by buying it from an expatriate Russian scientist.
1991 J. Craig Venter, Joseph Esposito, and other sequence the entire DNA of the Rahima strain of smallpox.
1973 – present day Iraqi scientists are thought to be developing and working with smallpox as a biological weapon. The Iraqi research may include the technique of genetic engineering of the smallpox virus’s DNA, to make smallpox more deadly or evasive of the vaccine.
1994 The year in which Vector scientists claim to have moved smallpox from a WHO repository in Moscow, without the permission of the WHO, to Vector, in Siberia. (In fact, smallpox has been at Vector all along.)
1996 The WHO votes again to destroy all the public stocks of smallpox, with a deadline of June 30th, 1999
September, 1998 Lisa Hensley goes to work as a post-doc at Usamriid, at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and will end up working in the group led by Peter Jahrling, a prominent virologist there.
January 14, 1999 The Ad Hoc Committee on Orthopoxvirus Infections (the WHO’s expert advisory panel on smallpox) meets to decide whether to destroy the stocks. D. A. Henderson passionately argues for the destruction of the stocks. The panel votes to destroy smallpox.
Spring, 1999 The U.S. government reverses its position and pushes for the retention of smallpox stocks for research—principally so that Peter Jahrling and his colleagues at USAMRIID can work on new drugs and vaccines for smallpox.
January 12, 2000 Lisa Hensley nearly infects herself with Ebola Zaire.
Spring, 2000 First monkey model experiment with smallpox by Peter Jahrling and John Huggins at the Maximum Containment Laboratory (the MCL) at the CDC in Atlanta. The experiment does not yield any useful result.
September 2-3, 2000 Peter Jahrling and Richard Moyer learn of the Jackson-Ramshaw IL-4 mousepox experiment and object to its publication on grounds that it is a blueprint for the biological equivalent of a nuclear bomb—a recipe for a possibly vaccine-proof engineered smallpox.
February, 2001 The Jackson-Ramshaw experiment is published in the Journal of Virology.
May 30, 2001 Start of the second monkey model experiment at the Maximum Containment Lab in Atlanta.
June 4, 2002 Lisa Hensley and Mark Martinez observe monkeys dying of hemorrhagic smallpox in the Maximum Containment Lab. This is the first time any species other than man has been seen to die of smallpox virus.
June 6, 2002 A monkey nicknamed “Harper” develops classical ordinary smallpox in the MCL. He survives his disease.
September 11, 2001 The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks by al-Qaeda. The entire CDC is evacuated during the terror event.
September 16 D. A. Henderson goes to work for the U.S. government as a bioterrorism expert.
September 18 Someone mails letters full of crumbly granular anthrax to media figures in New York City—to Tom Brokaw of NBC, and to CBS, ABC, and the New York Post.
October 5 Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, in Boca Raton, Florida, dies of inhalation anthrax (from a letter that went through his mail bin).
October 6 CDC epidemiologist Brad Perkins and his team of investigators determine that Robert Stevens was infected through the mail, and Perkins asks for the FBI to be brought in “full force.”
October 9 On or slightly before this date, someone mails letters full of finely powdered weapons-grade anthrax to Senators Daschle and Leahy.
October 15 The Daschle letter containing powdered anthrax is opened in the Hart Senate Office Building. Usamriid scientist John Ezzell starts analysis of the powder in the letter and finds it has the characteristics of a biological weapon.
October 16 Usamriid scientists continue with analysis. Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert are drawn into the case, fearing that the Daschle letter may contain smallpox.
October 17 Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson asks Congress for enough money so that every American can have a dose of smallpox vaccine.
October 19 Tom Geisbert obtains the first very clear images of the Daschle powder in its dry state, and discovers, to his shock, that it looks like “moon rocks” and “skulls.”
October 21-22 Postal workers from the Brentwood mail-sorting facility are dying of anthrax.
October 24 Top-security meeting at the Roosevelt Room in the White House to discuss the anthrax terror emergency. Peter Jahrling first begins to think that the anthrax terrorist(s) could conceivably have been American, and could have manufacture the anthrax in a small lab somewhere.
January, 2002 Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, strongly objects to Peter Jahrling’s monkey model experiments with smallpox, calling Jahrling and his colleagues “idiots of the worst sort.”
June 25, 2002 FBI teams search the apartment of former Usamriid scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill, in Frederick, just outside the gates of Fort Detrick. The FBI says Hatfill is not a suspect in the anthrax terror event. Hatfill strongly denies any involvement in the anthrax attacks and says that he is cooperating with the FBI in order to clear his name.
January – July 2002 The FBI investigation into the anthrax terror attacks—Amerithrax—appears to stall out.

 


The Demon in the Freezer

Richard Preston

Random House | History - Military - Chemical; Science - Biochemistry | October 2002 | $24.95

Find a Retailer

 

  Home | About Demon in the Freezer | About Richard Preston | Read an Excerpt | Reviews
Appearances and Media | Bookshelf | Readers React | Related Links
  copyright © 2002, Richard Preston