Smallpox is an acute, contagious, and sometimes
fatal disease caused by a virus.
Smallpox is spread from person to person by
coughing and sneezing. Generally this means that
there is direct and fairly prolonged face-to-face
contact with a sick person.
Persons with smallpox are most likely to spread
the disease during the first week of illness.
However, it may be contagious until all scabs have
fallen off (approximately three weeks).
the symptoms of smallpox?
Symptoms appear between seven and seventeen
days for symptoms of smallpox to appear.
The initial symptoms of smallpox appear to be
flu-like with high fever, headaches, tiredness,
and backaches. About two to four days following
the appearance of these symptoms, a rash will
develop on the face, arms, and legs at the same
time. Initially the rash is red and flat, then it
progresses to a raised rash and forms a blister
filled with a yellowish-white infectious fluid
that will begin to crust over early in the second
week. About three to four weeks later, scabs
develop, separate, and fall off.
What is the
treatment for smallpox?
There is no proven treatment for smallpox, but
research is being conducted on new antiviral
agents. Strict isolation of persons with smallpox
must be done to prevent the spread of the disease.
complications from smallpox?
The majority of persons with smallpox recover.
Complications of smallpox may be the following:
encephalitis (infection of brain tissue),
keratitis (inflammation of the cornea of the eye),
and blindness in about 1% of the cases. Many
survivors have permanent scars over large areas of
their body, especially their face.
Death occurs in up to 30% of the cases.
smallpox be prevented?
The only way to prevent smallpox is the use of
the smallpox vaccine. Routine vaccination of the
American public against smallpox ended in 1972
after the disease was eradicated in the United
States. The level of protection, if any, among
persons who were vaccinated before 1972 us
uncertain; therefore, these persons are assumed to
The vaccine can lessen the severity of or even
prevent illness if given within four days of
exposure to the disease.
smallpox be used as a bio-weapon?
Smallpox could be released in aerosol form,
however the virus is fragile. In laboratory
experiments, 90% of aerosolized smallpox virus
dies within 24 hours. If an aerosol release of
smallpox occurs, 90% of virus matter will be
inactivated or dissipated in about 24 hours.
Where can I
find more information about smallpox?
Other Category A disease agents