What Is Smallpox
Smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus family. It was one of the world’s most devastating diseases known to humanity. The last known natural case was in Somalia in 1977. It was declared eradicated in 1980 following a global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization.
Smallpox is transmitted from person to person via infective droplets during close contact with infected symptomatic people.
What Are the Symptoms of Smallpox?
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How fast does smallpox spread?
The speed of smallpox transmission is generally slower than for such diseases as measles or chickenpox. Patients spread smallpox primarily to household members and friends because by the time patients are contagious, they are usually sick and stay in bed; large outbreaks in schools were uncommon.
Types of Smallpox
There 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. The CDC estimates that 90 percent of smallpox cases were variola major. Historically, this type of smallpox killed 30 percent of those infected.
How Do You Catch Smallpox?
One of the reasons smallpox was so dangerous and deadly is because it’s an airborne disease. Airborne diseases tend to spread fast. Coughing, sneezing, or direct contact with any bodily fluids could spread the smallpox virus. In addition, sharing contaminated clothing or bedding could lead to infection.
Treatment for Smallpox
There 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.
In 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.