Nov 28, 2021
JERUSALEM WEATHER

Share this article

The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic made the entire world hyper-aware of the threat of plagues. So it was especially disturbing when it was reported last week that an alert had been sent to the Department of Homeland Security leadership warning that 15 “questionable vials” labeled “smallpox” were found in a freezer at a Merck facility outside Philadelphia. 

Mishandling of deadly smallpox virus

Five of the vials were labeled as “smallpox” and 10 were labeled as “vaccinia.” The vials were secured immediately, the facility locked down, and the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently investigating the incident. 

“There is no indication that anyone has been exposed to the small number of frozen vials. The frozen vials labeled ‘Smallpox’ were incidentally discovered by a laboratory worker while cleaning out a freezer in a facility that conducts vaccine research in Pennsylvania,” a CDC spokesperson told Yahoo News. 

“CDC, its Administration partners, and law enforcement are investigating the matter, and the vials’ contents appear intact. The laboratory worker who discovered the vials was wearing gloves and a face mask. We will provide further details as they are available,” the spokesperson said.

After the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980, scientists debated whether to maintain samples of the devastating disease in order to continue research.  Those in favor of keeping samples have argued they are needed to develop new vaccines in response to a new outbreak.

The majority of Americans are not vaccinated against smallpox, and those who were vaccinated would likely now have waning immunity.

There are now only two locations that officially store and handle variola virus under WHO supervision: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR Institute) in Koltsovo, Russia.

Bill Gates warned of smallpox bioterrorism two weeks ago

The revelation of the most recent mishandling of the virus samples comes less than two weeks after billionaire Bill Gates called for an international task force to prepare for a smallpox bioterror attack. In an interview with the former UK health secretary, Jeremy Hunt for the Policy Exchange think tank, Gates called for a billion-dollar WHO pandemic task force to carry out “germ games”. He justified the expense by warning of a possible threat of “bioterrorists releasing smallpox at 10 airports”.

 

Mishandling of bioweapons: More common than most realize

Despite the care taken in handling the deadly virus, this is not the first time samples have been mishandled. In 2014, a scientist cleaning out a storage room at a lab on the National Institutes of Health’s Bethesda campus found vials dated from the 1950s. containing freeze-dried samples of the variola virus that causes smallpox. In 2019, an explosion at the Russian lab that studied the smallpox virus raised questions about the wisdom of maintaining these studies. 

In 2015, the CDC flagged one of the Department of Defense’s most secure laboratories located in Maryland that may have mislabeled, improperly stored, and shipped samples of potentially infectious anthrax and bubonic plague. The revelation led to an emergency ban on research on all bioterror pathogens at nine laboratories run by the Pentagon/ This came amid revelations that another Army lab in Utah had mishandled anthrax samples for 10 years.

It is important to note that the last known smallpox fatality was in 1978 and was caused by a lab leak. Janet Parker, a medical photographer at England’s Birmingham University Medical School. She worked one floor above the Medical Microbiology Department where staff and students conducted smallpox research. She became ill and died after one month.  An investigation suggested that Janet Parker had been infected either via an airborne route through the medical school building’s duct system or by direct contact while visiting the microbiology corridor.

Big money preparing for smallpox outbreak

It is also important to note that despite the WHO certifying the global eradication of smallpox in 1980, the FDA approved two drugs for the treatment of smallpox; tecovirimat (TPOXX) om 2018 and brincidofovir (TEMBEXA) in 2020. In September, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the US Department of Health and Human Services ordered  $112.5 million worth of oral TPOXX smallpoix treatment courses.

By some estimates, smallpox, caused by the Variola virus, has killed more people than every other infectious disease combined. The risk of death after contracting smallpox was about 30%, with higher rates among babies. The disease historically occurred in outbreaks. In 18th-century Europe, it is estimated that 400,000 people died from the disease per year and that one-third of all cases of blindness was due to smallpox. Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year. The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977.

Could smallpox be the pre-Messiah sixth plague?

Gates’ assessment brings to mind images of a global epidemic of horrible suffering similar to the last chapter in Zechariah, which states that a plague of sickness will reappear at the end-of-days as divine judgment.

And this shall be the plague wherewith Hashem will smite all the peoples that have warred against Yerushalayim: their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet and their eyes shall consume away in their sockets and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. Zechariah 14:12

As horrifying as it is, Gates’ warning and the Biblical prophecy are both too realistic to ignore. Such a pandemic would closely resemble the plagues of Egypt, which are predicted in Jewish literature to reappear before the Messiah. The end-of-days replay of the plagues is referred to in Kabbalistic literature as part of the “birth pangs of Messiah” (chevlei Moshiach in Hebrew).

It is written in Midrash Tanchuma, homiletic teachings collected around the fifth century, that “just as God struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues, so too He will strike the enemies of the Jewish people at the time of the Redemption.”

In an interesting coincidence, the earliest evidence of smallpox dates to the 3rd century BCE in Egyptian mummies.  In this respect, smallpox, which is characterized by lesions that develop uniformly throughout the disease, could very well be the pre-Messiah incarnation of the sixth plague:

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion explained that, unlike the other plagues, the plague of boils was a result of an action performed by Moses; throwing dust in the air. 

Then Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon, “Each of you take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moshe throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. Exodus 9:8

“This was one of the few plagues in which it could be perceived as the result of man’s actions, Rabbi Berger said. “If a plague does break out in America, it surely is a result of God’s intervention but man has to take responsibility for his part in bringing it.”