Government officials hold smallpox drill

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cabinet secretaries participated in a drill Saturday that simulated a smallpox attack as the government tested plans to counter the potential use of bioweapons by terrorists.
"The purpose of this exercise, which was only a drill, was to address the federal government's response to a potential smallpox attack," said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. "While there's concern, we do not have any concern that a smallpox attack is imminent."
The World Health Organization reported the disease was eradicated in 1980. Still, there are fears that smallpox could be used by terrorists as a biological weapon.
The United States ended routine childhood vaccination against smallpox in 1971. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, however, the Bush administration ordered some military personnel vaccinated and recommended shots for front-line health care workers.
The government has stockpiled enough smallpox vaccine for everyone in the United States, Perino said. The government also has helped develop a new vaccine, which is in clinical trials, that does not appear to have the same potential negative side effects as the earlier one, she said.
In 2004, President Bush signed an order directing government agencies to help protect the country from an attack with biological agents. A revised version had 59 instructions for agencies to improve the nation's defenses, including improving the Biowatch system of sensors that continuously monitor and analyze the air in 31 cities.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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