What Is Smallpox?
is an extremely contagious and deadly virus for which there is no known cure.
The last known case occurred in the United States in 1949 and due to
worldwide vaccination programs, this disease has been completely eradicated.
Smallpox is also known as variola.
the time of ancient Egypt, smallpox has proven to be one of the most
devastating diseases to humankind. Widespread smallpox epidemics and huge death
tolls fill the pages of our history books.
first smallpox vaccine was created in 1758. However, the
disease continued to infect and kill people on a widespread basis for another
200 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) implemented a strict vaccination
standard in order to slow the infection rate. The last known natural case
occurred in 1977 in Somalia.
1980, the WHO
declared that smallpox had been completely eradicated, although government and
health agencies still have stashes of smallpox virus for research purposes.
no longer receive routine smallpox vaccinations. The smallpox vaccine can have
potentially fatal side effects, so only the people who are at high risk of
exposure get the vaccine.
What Are the Symptoms of
accounts show that when someone was infected with the smallpox virus, they had
no symptoms for between seven and 17 days. However, once the incubation period
(or virus development phase) was over, the following flu-like symptoms
- high fever
- severe back pain
- abdominal pain
symptoms would go away within two to three days. Then the patient would feel
better. However, just as the patient started to feel better, a rash would
appear. The rash started on the face and then spread to the hands, forearms,
and the main part of the body. The person would be highly contagious until the rash
two days of appearance, the rash would develop into abscesses that filled with
fluid and pus. The abscesses would break open and scab over. The scabs would
eventually fall off, leaving pit mark scars. Until the scabs fell off, the
person remained contagious.
Types of Smallpox
were two common and two rare forms of smallpox. The two common forms were known
as variola minor and variola major.
Variola minor was a less fatal type of smallpox. The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that only 1 percent of those
infected died. However, it was less common than variola major.
CDC estimates that 90 percent of smallpox
cases were variola major.
Historically, this type of smallpox killed 30 percent of those
two rare forms of smallpox were known as hemorrhagic and malignant. Both of
these rare forms of smallpox carried a very high fatality rate.
Hemorrhagic smallpox caused organs to leak blood
into the mucous membranes and skin.
Malignant smallpox lesions did not develop into
pustules or pus-filled bumps on the skin. Instead, they remained soft and flat
throughout the entire illness.
How Do You Catch Smallpox?
of the reasons smallpox was so dangerous and deadly is because it’s an airborne
disease. Airborne diseases tend to spread fast.
sneezing, or direct contact with any bodily fluids could spread the smallpox
virus. In addition, sharing contaminated clothing or bedding could lead to
Treatment for Smallpox
is no cure for the smallpox virus. As a result of worldwide, repeated
vaccination programs, the variola virus (smallpox) has been completely
eradicated. The only people considered to be at risk for smallpox are
researchers who work with it in a laboratory setting.
the unlikely event that an exposure to the smallpox virus occurs, vaccination
within one to three days can keep the illness from being so severe. In
addition, antibiotics can help to reduce the bacterial infections associated
with the virus.