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Smallpox

Smallpox is a disease caused by the Variola major virus. Some experts say that over the centuries it has killed more people than all other infectious diseases combined. Worldwide immunization stopped the spread of smallpox three decades ago. The last case was reported in 1977. Two research labs still keep small amounts of the virus. Experts fear bioterrorists could use the virus to spread disease.

Smallpox spreads very easily from person to person. Symptoms are flu-like. They include

  • High fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • A rash with flat red sores

There is no treatment. Fluids and medicines for pain or fever can help control symptoms. Most people recover, but some can die. Those who do recover may have severe scars.

The U.S. stopped routine smallpox vaccinations in 1972. Military and other high-risk groups continue to get the vaccine. The U.S. has increased its supply of the vaccine in recent years. The vaccine makes some people sick, so doctors save it for those at highest risk of disease.

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Symptoms of Smallpox

The following features are indicative of Smallpox:
  • fever
  • overall discomfort
  • headache
  • severe fatigue
  • severe back pain
  • vomiting
It is possible that Smallpox shows no physical symptoms and still be present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Smallpox

The following are the most common causes of Smallpox:
  • variola virus
  • spread directly from infected person
  • spread indirectly from an infected person
  • contaminated items such as contaminated clothing and bedding

Risk Factors for Smallpox

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Smallpox:
  • variola virus exposure
  • contact with infected person
  • sharing contaminated items

Prevention of Smallpox

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Smallpox. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • get smallpox vaccination

Occurrence of Smallpox

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Smallpox cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Extremely rare less than 1000 cases

Common Age Group

Smallpox can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Smallpox can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Smallpox

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Smallpox:
  • Skin tissue sample test: To diagnose the disease

Doctor for Diagnosis of Smallpox

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Smallpox:
  • Infectious disease specialist

Complications of Smallpox if untreated

Yes, Smallpox causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Smallpox is left untreated:
  • severe scars
  • blindness
  • can be fatal

Self-care for Smallpox

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Smallpox:
  • Infected person isolation: Staying isolated helps prevent spread of disease

Time for Treatment of Smallpox

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Smallpox to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 4 weeks

Is Smallpox Infectious?

Yes, Smallpox is known to be infectious. It can spread across people via the following means:
  • face to face contact
  • ventilation system in a building

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Smallpox.
Biodefense and Bioterrorism

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