Smallpox is a highly contagious disease, in some cases fatal, but considered eradicated since 1980. After affecting people for many centuries, mass vaccination succeeded in eradicating this disfiguring and sometimes even fatal disease. No cure has been found for smallpox, but vaccination is an effective means of prevention.
Causes of smallpox
Variola virus’ infection
Smallpox, a viral infection, was caused by the smallpox virus, the ‘Variola virus’, which was transmitted from person to person or also, although the chances are low, through objects and clothes touched by the infected person. Normally, the infection was eventually cured, but it can have serious effects, or even death, in people with immune system problems and also in pregnant women. Smallpox left after-effects in the form of highly visible scars on the face and limbs.
To acquire the smallpox virus, direct and prolonged contact with the infected person would be necessary. Less commonly, it could be spread by contact with infected clothing or textiles, or through ventilation systems in a building.
Symptoms of smallpox
Incubation of about ten days
After the incubation period, which usually lasts about ten days, some very clear symptoms used to appear such as:
- Feeling of tiredness.
Subsequently, red spots appeared on the skin, especially on the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth, which with the passage of days turned into pus-filled blisters. The evolution led to the creation of scabs that eventually fell off when they were dry, but left scars in various areas of the body.
Diagnosis of smallpox
A visual examination should be sufficient to know if a sick person has smallpox, if the disease has progressed and caused the appearance of red spots. A single confirmed case would be an international health emergency.
Treatment and medication for smallpox
There is no effective treatment
There is no cure for smallpox. Sick people were given plenty of water to ensure they were hydrated and waited a few days for the disease to evolve and eventually disappear although it would leave scars on the body. Treatment would focus on alleviating the symptoms in isolation.
Prevention of smallpox
The only effective way to prevent smallpox is vaccination. If an outbreak were to occur, people vaccinated in childhood should be re-vaccinated.