The events of 11 September 2001, in New York City, and subsequent identification of anthrax in the United States Postal System, have generated a new sense of awareness for the potential of biological terrorism, if not warfare. Among those agents identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as 'Class A Bioterrorist Threats', smallpox is among the most dangerous. The ease of transmission of this agent, the lack of immunity in the population at large to this agent, and rapidity of its spread, if released, all generate significant concern for its deployment. A vaccine directed against smallpox is available but it is also associated with significant adverse events - some of which are life-threatening. Further, no antiviral drug has proven efficacious for therapy of human disease, although one licensed drug, cidofovir, does have in vitro activity. Regardless, heightened awareness should lead to the development of a vaccine without significant adverse events and safe and efficacious antiviral drugs. The availability of a vaccine and antiviral drugs that are safe would significantly remove any major threat of smallpox deployment by a terrorist. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.