Smallpox is a highly contagious, potentially deadly infectious variola virus disease. Back in 1977 was when the last naturally occurring case was reported. The only smallpox virus known to be in existence are in a laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia and Russia, in small amounts.
Symptoms of smallpox are difficult to differentiate from other flu-like infections:
Smallpox infection includes a characteristic rash, most notably on face, arms, and legs. This rash starts as flat red sores, which fill with pus, crust over, and finally develop scabs, which fall off around week 3.
Typically, smallpox is caught by inhaling virus filled droplets of saliva from an infected person. When infected, you will not feel sick for 10-12 days. It is most contagious with symptoms, and risk of transmission lasts until all rash scabs fall off. Contaminated clothing or bed linens can spread the virus, therefore they must be thoroughly cleaned with bleach and hot water.
There is no proven treatment for smallpox, and the majority of smallpox sufferers do recover. But are often left with rash scars.
The current smallpox vaccine, which consists of a laboratory strain of vaccinia virus, is highly effective in helping your body develop an immunity to smallpox, without containing a drop of the smallpox virus itself.
A successful vaccination causes:
- 3-4 days ~ a red and itchy bump at the vaccine site
- 1st week – bump becomes a large blister, fills with pus, and begins to drain
- 2nd week ~ blister begins to dry up and forms a scab
- 3rd week ~ scab falls off, leaving a small scar
Most will experience normal mild reactions to the vaccine, such as:
- low fever
- swollen armpit glands
- vaccination site skin redness
Some life-threatening complications can occur that require medical treatment. This potential is particularly high in those with immune deficiencies and skin disorders. A high risk screening is done prior to vaccination, and those at an increased risk are not vaccinated.
Studies on smallpox are limited due to variola virus deadly potential and international agreement limitations. The world’s health relies on strict regulation for just a bit of smallpox.