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What is Smallpox?

It is an extremely contagious and deadly virus for which there is no known cure. In the United States in 1949, the last known case occurred and due to worldwide vaccination programs, this disease has been completely eradicated. Smallpox is also known as variola.


Caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor, smallpox was an infectious disease. This contagious disease came into existence in 10,000 BC. This syndrome was declared as completely eradicated after the global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO), in 1980 with the help of the smallpox vaccine. In 1796,the first effective vaccine was discovered of the smallpox, and it was developed by Edward Jenner. The last symptoms of this infectious disease were found in the year 1977.


Smallpox is a contagious disease, which transmits from one person to another by infective droplets of an infected person. For this contagious disease there is no treatment found, but could be prevented through the vaccinations.


The Smallpox Virus Variola

Variola minor and Variola major are the two forms of variola virus. Being a member of the orthopoxvirus family, variola virus is a deadly virus. The virus resembles brick ones and the core of the virus to make the structure, which is made up of a genetic material DNA which resembles a dumbbell in shape. The DNA in the core comprises necessary proteins, which are required to replicate the host’s cell. There is a 17 days period for the incubation of this disease, which later results in severe fever with the appearance of rashes on the face, legs, hands, arms, etc.


Causes of Smallpox

Smallpox spreads at a faster rate, which is an airborne disease and is mainly caused by an infection of a deadly type of virus variola. The causes of this virus is as follows:

  1. It transmits through the droplets released from coughing, sneezing, and face to face contact with an infected person.

  2. By sharing drinks, exchange of body fluids like blood transfusion and etc, this infection is also transmitted.

  3. Caused by even touching any contaminated area.

  4. By using unclean syringes or the used ones.


Symptoms of Smallpox

Usually, the symptoms occur after 17 days of  the infection of the variola virus. After the incubation period general symptoms are seen are as follows:

  1. High fever followed with chills.

  2. Vomiting or nausea.

  3. A severe headache, followed by other body pains.

  4. After the attack it develops rashes, filled up with pus or fluid on the face, legs, hands, arms, etc.


Treatment for Smallpox

Smallpox is a contagious disease, which transmits from one person to another by infective droplets of an infected person. For this contagious disease, there is no treatment found. There is no such cure available for this syndrome, since it is a deadly disease. By vaccinating with the smallpox vaccine, it could be still prevented. From illness and causing fatal conditions to humans for the disease, this vaccine helps to prevent. The antibodies present in this vaccine protects the body from invading and to destroy the virus.


Fun Facts

  1. Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. In october 1977, The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed, and has been certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

  2. There's no treatment or cure for smallpox. Though a vaccine can prevent it, the vaccine's side effect risk is too high to justify routine vaccination for people at low risk of exposure to the virus.

  3. In addition to flu-like symptoms, patients also experience a rash that appears first on the face, hands and forearms and then later appears on the torso.

  4. Usually, after the infection of the variola virus, the symptoms occur after 17 days.

  5. Since the time of ancient Egypt, smallpox has proven to be one of the most devastating diseases to humankind. The pages of our history books have been filled by the widespread smallpox epidemics and huge death tolls.

  6. The first smallpox vaccine was created in 1758. But, the disease continued the process of infecting and killing people on a widespread basis for another 200 years.

  7. It was one of the world's most devastating diseases known to humanity. In Somalia in 1977 it was the last known natural case. Naturally occurring smallpox was destroyed worldwide by 1980.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Does Smallpox Still Exist and How Many People did Smallpox Kill?

There is no evidence of naturally occurring smallpox transmission anywhere in the world in the current time. Small quantities of smallpox virus officially still exist in two research laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Russia, though a worldwide immunization program eradicated smallpox disease decades ago.


In the 20th century alone, an estimated 300 million people died from smallpox. This virulent disease, which kills a third of those it infects, is known to have coexisted with human beings for thousands of years.

2. What Caused Smallpox and How Does Smallpox Kill?

With the variola virus infection the smallpox has been caused. Directly from person to person, this virus can be transmitted. Through the air by droplets that escape when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, the virus can be transmitted.


A fundamental mystery about smallpox was solved by the  researchers that has puzzled scientists long after the natural disease was eradicated by vaccination: they know how it kills us. It can be described now by the scientists how the virus cripples immune systems by attacking molecules made by our bodies to block viral replication.