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Smallpox Disease

Smallpox is an acute, communicable disease caused by a virus known as the variola virus. The name "smallpox" comes from the Latin word for "spotted", which refers to the raised bumps that appear on the face and body of an infected person. Two forms of the disease, variola major and variola minor, have typical mortality rates of 30% and 1%, respectively. The symptoms of smallpox begin with high fever, chills, head and body aches, and sometimes vomiting. A rash then emerges on the tongue and mouth and spreads to the skin, forming on the arms and legs and then to the hands and feet. The rash progresses to raised bumps and pus-filled blisters that crust, scab, and fall off after about three weeks, leaving a pitted scar. There is no proven treatment for smallpox. However, eradication efforts have been successful. The last natural case of smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1977. The following references aid in recognizing disease characteristics and hazards associated with smallpox.

  • Smallpox. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Contains extensive smallpox information, including fact sheets; overviews; FAQs; diagnosis and evaluation; infection control, laboratory testing; surveillance and investigation; selected publications; and education and training materials.
  • Public Health Image Library (PHIL). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Offers several images related to smallpox that include descriptions.
  • Smallpox. World Health Organization (WHO) Health Topics. Provides information on smallpox, including a fact sheet, disease outbreak information, publications, and related links.
  • Current Description of Smallpox. The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health. Provides basic information on smallpox, including identification, infectious agent, global occurrence, reservoir, mode of transmission, incubation period, communicability, susceptibility and resistance, methods of control, and more.
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