What is smallpox?

Smallpox is a serious illness and a virus called the variola virus is the major reason. This name of this disease comes from the pus-filled blisters (or pocks) that form during the illness.

Smallpox is a contagious, disfiguring and often life-threatening disease that has affected humans for thousands of years. But thanks to global medical development, this deadly infectious disease was wiped out in the late 1970s.

Although we have a vaccine can prevent smallpox, no certain treatment for smallpox is discovered. Besides, the risk of the vaccine’s side effects is too high to justify routine vaccination for people at low risk of exposure to the smallpox virus.

How common is smallpox?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of smallpox?

The most common sign of the disease is: small blisters that pop up on the face, arms, and body, and fill up with pus.

Other symptoms include:

  • Flu-like fatigue, headache, body aches, and sometimes vomiting
  • High fever
  • Mouth sores and blisters that spread the virus into the throat
  • A skin rash that gets worse in a typical pattern:
  • The rash starts with flat red sores that become raised bumps a few days later.
  • The bumps turn into fluid-filled blisters.
  • The blisters fill with pus.
  • They crust over, usually in the second week of smallpox.
  • Scabs form over the blisters and then fall off, usually in the third week of the disease. Finally, they can cause permanent scars.
  • When blisters form near the eyes, patients can become blind.
  • These symptoms usually go away within two to three days. Then the patient would feel better. However, since the patient started to feel better, a rash would appear. The face would be affected first and then spread to the hands, forearms, and the main part of the body. The person has a highly contagious condition until the rash disappeared.
  • During two days of appearance, the rash would develop into abscesses that filled with fluid and pus. The abscesses would break open and scab over. The scabs would eventually fall off, leaving pit mark scars

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.


When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes smallpox?

  • Directly from person to person. Direct transmission of the virus requires fairly prolonged face-to-face contact.
  • Indirectly from an infected person. In rare cases, airborne virus can spread farther, possibly through the ventilation system in a building, infecting people in other rooms or on other floors.
  • Via contaminated items. Smallpox can also spread through contact with contaminated clothing and bedding,…
  • As a terrorist weapon, potentially. A deliberate release of smallpox is a remote threat.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for smallpox?

There are many risk factors for smallpox, such as:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • People with skin disorders such as eczema
  • People with a weak immune system due to a medical condition like leukemia or HIV
  • People on medical treatments, such as for cancer, that make the immune system weak

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How is smallpox diagnosed?

  • When patients do get smallpox, a doctor can recognize the disease because it causes a special kind of rash. The rash shows up as blisters on the skin that fill with fluid and crust over.
  • This might sound like chickenpox, but the blisters look different from the blisters that chickenpox causes.
  • The other symptoms of smallpox are like those of many other less serious illnesses: fever, headache, backache, and feeling tired.

How is smallpox treated?

There’s no certain treatment for smallpox. Getting the vaccine within 3 to 4 days of contact with the virus may make the disease less severe or maybe help prevent it.

In the event of an infection, treatment would concentrate on relieving symptoms and keeping the person from becoming dehydrated.

With people develops a bacterial infection in the lungs or on the skin, antibiotics might be prescribed

Experts are still discovering new antiviral medicines that could treat the disease. The drug cidofovir has worked well in early studies.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage smallpox?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with smallpox:

  • People who had smallpox would be kept in isolation in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
  • Experts use the cousin virus to variola (the vaccinia virus) to make the smallpox vaccine, because it poses fewer health risks. The vaccine prompts the body’s immune system to make the factors, called antibodies, it is extremely important to protect against the variola virus and help prevent smallpox disease.
  • Anyone who had contact with someone who developed an infection would need the smallpox vaccine, which can prevent or lessen the severity of the disease if given within four days of exposure to the smallpox virus.
  • When a child is vaccinated it’s not known exactly how long immunity lasts after a smallpox vaccine. It’s likely that a previous vaccination would offer partial immunity, which might protect against the disease’s most-serious complications.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: July 7, 2017 | Last Modified: July 7, 2017

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