Public Health Emergencies
Smallpox is a serious, contagious and sometimes fatal infectious disease.
There are two clinical forms of smallpox
- Variola major is the severe and most common form of smallpox.
- Variola minor is the less common type of smallpox, and causes a much less severe disease.
Possible Symptoms of Smallpox
- The first symptoms of smallpox may include high fever, tiredness, head and body aches, and sometimes vomiting. These symptoms may last for two to four days.
- Next, a rash starts as small red spots on the tongue and in the mouth. A rash then appears on the skin, starting on the face and spreading to the arms and legs and then to the hands and feet. The rash spreads to all parts of the body within 24 hours.
- The rash becomes raised bumps and the bumps become “pustules,” which are raised, round and firm to the touch.
- The pustules begin to form a crust and then scab. By the end of the second week after the rash appears, most of the sores have scabbed over.
- The scabs begin to fall off, leaving scars.
How Can Smallpox Be Spread?
- Smallpox is spread from person to person by face-to-face contact.
- Smallpox can also be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or by touching contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing of an infected person.
How to Treat Smallpox
- There is no specific treatment for smallpox. Vaccination within 3 days of exposure can completely prevent or significantly modify smallpox in the vast majority of persons.
- Vaccination 4 to 7 days after exposure likely offers some protection from disease.
How Can Smallpox Be Prevented?
- The smallpox vaccine is not currently available to the general public except in the event of an outbreak.
- During an outbreak, vaccination is the best method of prevention.
- Direct contact with infected persons, their bodily fluids, and contaminated items should be avoided.
More information about smallpox, its cause, symptoms, treatment and prevention can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.