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What is Smallpox?

Smallpox is an infectious disease, which is caused due to two virus variants, known as the variola major and variola minor. Pimples, rashes or blisters form mostly on the skin anywhere on the body, mouth and throat.

What are variants of Smallpox?

The two most severe variants of Smallpox which are life threatening are:

Hemorrhagic Smallpox: It usually starts with headache, high fever, back pain and abdominal pain. These symptoms are further followed by a red rash which causes bruising and broken blood vessels from underneath the skin. Within one week of the symptoms death occurs.

Malignant Smallpox: As with hemorrhagic Smallpox, the symptoms are similar, but the occurrence of the rash starts slowly and the skin lesions do not turn into pustules. The rash is soft, flat and velvety, which causes large areas of the skin to peel off. Malignant Smallpox is most often fatal.

What are the causes of Smallpox?

Smallpox mostly requires face to face contact with the affected person to spread. Mostly Smallpox is spread through the air by the droplets that escape when the infected person sneezes, cough or talks. It can also spread through contaminated clothing, but the risk of infection through such sources is rare.

What are the signs and symptoms of Smallpox?

The initial symptoms of Smallpox mostly appear 12-14 days after a person is infected. The person can look and feel healthy during the incubation period and cannot infect others.

The symptoms that occur are:

  • High fever
  • Discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme back pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Flat, red sports appear on the hands, face and forearms a few days later. The lesions, within a day or two, turn into small blisters that are filled with clear fluid, which turns into pus. The rash is noticeable on the palms of the hands and soles of the infected person. In the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth, the lesions develop and turn into sores that break open and spread the virus into the saliva.

Who should be consulted for Smallpox?

One should consult a General Physician or Dermatologist for Smallpox.

What are the complications involved if Smallpox is not treated?

Majority of the people infected with Smallpox survive, but some rare variants of Smallpox are fatal and can lead to death. The severe variants of Smallpox usually affect pregnant women and the people with weak immune system. Even after recovery, the people have severe scars on the face, legs and the arms. In rare cases, Smallpox leads to blindness.

What measures can be taken to prevent the risk of Smallpox?

The infected people should be kept in isolation at a hospital to control the spread of the virus. The people who have come into contact with an infected person should receive the Smallpox vaccine, as it will prevent the severity of the disease.

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