Asked Questions about Smallpox
should I know about smallpox?
is caused by variola virus.
The incubation period is about 12 days (range: 7 to 17 days)
are the symptoms of smallpox?
Initial symptoms include high fever, fatigue, and head and back
aches. A characteristic rash, most prominent on the face, arms,
and legs, follows in 2-3 days. The rash starts with flat red lesions
that evolve at the same rate. Lesions become pus-filled and begin
to crust early in the second week. Scabs develop and then separate
and fall off after about 3-4 weeks. The majority of patients with
smallpox recover, but death occurs in up to 30% of cases.
is small pox spread?
Smallpox is spread from one person to another by infected saliva
droplets that expose a susceptible person having face-to-face contact
with the ill person. Persons with smallpox are most infectious during
the first week of illness, because that is when the largest amount
of virus is present in saliva. However, some risk of transmission
lasts until all scabs have fallen off.
According to the CDC,
vaccination is not recommended, and the vaccine is not available
to health providers or the public. In the absence of a confirmed
case of smallpox anywhere in the world, there is no need to be vaccinated
in the smallpox vaccine?
Vaccine against smallpox contains another live virus called vaccinia.
The vaccine does not contain smallpox virus. The United States currently
has an emergency supply of smallpox vaccine. Routine
vaccination against smallpox ended in 1972. The level of immunity,
if any, among persons who were vaccinated before 1972 is uncertain;
therefore, these persons are assumed to be susceptible.
vaccine help if I'm exposed to smallpox?
According to the CDC,
people exposed to smallpox, the vaccine can lessen the severity
of or even prevent illness if given within four days after exposure.
their side effects to vaccination?
There can be severe side effects to the smallpox vaccine, which
is another reason the CDC
does not recommend vaccination. In the photo to the right, you see
an example of accidental auto-inoculation of an eyelid with the
is the government doing?
In the event of an outbreak, the CDC
has clear guidelines to swiftly provide vaccine to people exposed
to this disease. The vaccine is securely stored for use in the case
of an outbreak. In addition, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Tommy Thompson recently announced plans to accelerate production
of a new smallpox vaccine.
can people do who contract smallpox?
There is no proven treatment for smallpox
but research to evaluate new antiviral agents is ongoing.
Patients with smallpox can benefit from supportive therapy (intravenous
fluids, medicine to control fever or pain, etc.) and antibiotics
for any secondary bacterial infections that occur.
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