Health

Call to destroy smallpox delayed

The world's last known stockpiles of smallpox virus won't be destroyed for at least three more years, the World Health Organization says.
An actor-patient, made up to look as if he is infected with smallpox, is tended to in the Nebraska biocontainment unit in 2006. (Nati Harnik/AP)

The world's last known stockpiles of smallpox virus won't be destroyed for at least three more years, the World Health Organization says.

At Tuesday's World Health Assembly in Geneva, ministers and senior officials from 192 members states said there's little reason to keep stockpiles of smallpox.

The U.S. had proposed a five-year extension of destroying stocks in the U.S. and Russia, saying the samples could help defend against potential use of the virus as a biological weapon.

Instead, members put off the decision on what to do with the samples for another three years.

"The Health Assembly strongly reaffirmed the decision of previous assemblies that the remaining stock of smallpox [variola] virus should be destroyed when crucial research based on the virus has been completed," the UN health agency said in a statement.

"The state of variola virus research will be reviewed at the 67th World Health Assembly in 2014 and in light of that, determining a date for destruction of the remaining virus stocks will be discussed."

With files from The Associated Press

now