What is Smallpox?

Smallpox is a highly contagious and deadly disease caused by the variola virus. It was eradicated in 1980 following a global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization.

Who's at Risk for Smallpox?

In the past, everyone was at risk for smallpox. However, since the disease was eradicated, the general risk is nonexistent under normal circumstances. The primary risk now would be in a bioterrorism event where the smallpox virus was released.

What Causes Smallpox?

Smallpox was caused by infection with the variola virus. It was highly contagious and spread from person to person through close contact, respiratory droplets, and contaminated objects.

How Does Smallpox Start?

Smallpox started with a variola virus infection. After an incubation period of about 12 to 14 days, the infected person would start to experience high fever, fatigue, head and back aches, and sometimes vomiting. This was followed by the appearance of a characteristic rash.

What are the Symptoms of Smallpox?

Smallpox symptoms included high fever, fatigue, severe headache, backache, malaise, and sometimes vomiting. A few days after the onset of these symptoms, a rash would appear first on the face, hands, and forearms, then spreading to the trunk and legs.

How is Smallpox Diagnosed?

Smallpox was diagnosed based on the clinical symptoms, particularly the characteristic rash. Laboratory tests could confirm the diagnosis by detecting the virus in blood, throat, or skin samples.

How Can Smallpox be Treated?

There was no specific treatment for smallpox. Patients were isolated to prevent the spread of the virus and were given supportive care such as fluids and medications to control fever and pain. A vaccine could prevent the disease if given within a few days of exposure.

What Complications May Occur with Smallpox?

Complications of smallpox could include secondary bacterial infections, scarring, blindness due to corneal ulcerations, and life-threatening problems like pneumonia and encephalitis.

How Can I Prevent Smallpox?

Smallpox prevention is currently not a concern for the general public due to its eradication. However, in the event of a bioterrorism event, a smallpox vaccine would be used for prevention. The vaccine can prevent or lessen the severity of the disease if given within a few days of exposure. Additionally, in such an event, public health authorities would provide guidance on necessary steps for prevention.

Long-term Management of Smallpox Since smallpox has been eradicated, long-term management is not applicable. However, those who survived smallpox in the past might have had to manage long-term complications such as scarring or eye problems.

What is Recent Research Saying About Smallpox? Research on smallpox today mostly focuses on developing new vaccines and antiviral drugs in case the virus is ever used as a bioweapon. There's also interest in studying the variola virus to better understand its biology, which could potentially help in combating other viruses.

Where Can I Go For More Information on Smallpox? For more information on smallpox, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) websites. These organizations provide comprehensive information about the disease, its history, and the efforts that led to its eradication.