Smallpox

Facts of Smallpox

Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. Smallpox is a communicable, mutilating and in many cases a deadly disease which has affected humans for thousands of years. By 1980, naturally occurring smallpox was wiped out worldwide by the means of an exceptional global immunization campaign. For research purposes, samples of smallpox virus have been kept. This has led to apprehensions that smallpox could someday in the future be used as a biological warfare agent.

No treatment or cure for smallpox exists. It can be prevented by a vaccine, however the risk of the vaccine’s side effects is too high to line up routine vaccination for people at low risk of contact to the smallpox virus. After you’re infected with smallpox, the first symptoms usually appear within 12 to 14 days. You appear and feel healthy and can’t infect others during the incubation period of seven to 17 days.

Smallpox signs & symptoms

After the incubation period, an unexpected onset of flu-like signs and symptoms occurs. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Severe fatigue
  • Overall discomfort
  • Headache
  • Severe back pain
  • Possibly vomiting

Smallpox scars

Smallpox is triggered by infection with the variola virus. The virus can be spread:Flat, red spots appear first on your face, hands and forearms few days later and later on your body. Many of these marks turn into small blisters filled with clear fluid within a day or two, which then turns into pus. Within eight to nine days later scabs begin to form and eventually fall off, causing deep, pitted scars. Injuries also grow in the mucous membranes of your nose and mouth and rapidly turn into sores which break open.

Transmission

  • Directly from person to person. It requires rather long face-to-face contact for direct transmission of the virus. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks the virus can be transmitted through the air by droplets that escape from them.
  • Indirectly from an infected person. In an exceptional cases airborne virus can spread further, perhaps by means of the ventilation system in a building which infects people in other rooms or on other floors.
  • Via contaminated items. Although the risk of infection from these sources is less common, smallpox can also spread due to contact with contaminated items.

Treatment

Currently there exists no cure for smallpox. In case of an infection, treatment would focus on keeping the person from becoming dehydrated and relieving symptoms. If a person acquires a bacterial infection on the skin or in the lungs antibiotics might be prescribed.

People who had smallpox would be kept in quarantine in an effort to control the spread of the virus in the case of an outbreak. Anyone who had interaction with someone who acquired an infection would need the smallpox vaccine, if given within four days of exposure to the smallpox virus, the severity of the disease can prevented or reduced.

The vaccine uses a live virus which is related to smallpox that can sometimes cause serious complications like infections that affect the heart or brain. Thus, general vaccination program isn’t recommended for everyone. The possible risks of the vaccine is greater than the benefits, in the absence of an actual smallpox outbreak.

Revision

What is smallpox

Smallpox is a communicable, mutilating and in many cases a deadly disease which has affected humans for thousands of years caused by  two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor.

Is there a cure for smallpox

There is no cure for smallpox but vaccination can prevent infection from developing if taken during a period of up to four days after a person has been exposed to the virus.

How is smallpox transmitted

Face to face contact, infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.

When was smallpox eradicated

1979

Who discovered vaccine for smallpox

Edward Jenner in 1796

What is the cause of smallpox

Virus  Variola

Does smallpox still exist

No

Scientific name for smallpox

variola vera

Is smallpox a virus

Yes

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