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Smallpox - Smallpox in the Environment
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Decontamination of a Contaminated Environment

Questions
Answers
  1. If smallpox is discovered or released in a building, or if a person develops symptoms in a building, how can that area be decontaminated?

    The smallpox virus is fragile. In laboratory experiments, 90% of aerosolized (vaccinia virus [a model for smallpox virus]) dies within 24 hours; in the presence of ultraviolet (UV) light, this percentage would be even greater. If an aerosol release of smallpox occurs, 90% of virus matter will be inactivated or dissipated in about 24 hours.

    Standard hospital-grade disinfectants such as quaternary-ammonia compounds are effective in killing the virus. They should be used on surfaces to disinfect hospitalized patients rooms or other contaminated surfaces. Although less desirable because it can damage equipment and furniture, hypochlorite (bleach) is an acceptable alternative. In the hospital setting, patients linens should be autoclaved or washed in hot water with bleach added. Infectious waste should be placed in biohazard bags and autoclaved before incineration.



  2. What should people do if they suspect a person has smallpox or suspect that smallpox has been released in their area?
    On military installations, report suspected cases of smallpox or suspected intentional release of smallpox to your local hospital or clinic. In civilian communities, report suspected cases of smallpox or suspected intentional release of smallpox to your local health department. The hospital, clinic, or local health department will evaluate the situation and make needed reports to higher headquarters, the CDC, and the state health department. Report suspicious activities to law-enforcement personnel.