Smallpox could make a resurgence, some scientists theorize — thanks to infected human corpses that would emerge as global warming thaws Siberia.
The theory, as reported by the Daily Mail: The virus has been latent beneath Siberian snow, laying on human remains that have been frozen beneath the mud and ice. A global warming — leading to a Siberian defrost — could lead to those who touch those dead bodies becoming infected with smallpox.
But the reality, also reported by The Daily Mail: no evidence of the virus has yet been found on any Siberian bodies.
Smallpox is a painful disease that dots a person’s body with highly contagious and pus-filled blisters. It was reportedly eradicated in 1979, but researchers fear defrosting corpses could allow the disease to make a comeback.
The issue has been discussed among the scientific realm for a decade, Gizmodo reported. In 2002, Richard Stone penned a piece for Science magazine, raising the possibility of smallpox in the Arctic.
He suggested there might be a “nightmarish place near the Kolyma River” in the northeastern region of Siberia, where scientists have found and investigated smallpox laden bodies from the 18th century.
“The researchers huddle[d] around a mummified child half-submerged in thawing mud,” he wrote, adding that they then peeled back “a few layers of deerskin clothing to reveal blackened skin pocked with blemishes characteristic of smallpox pustules. As they cut into a wizened leg, liquid oozes from the spongy flesh.”
Some researchers say that those frozen bodies could be “a fertile ground and a reservoir of the virus,” Live Science reported.