Smallpox has been the most devastating diseases in the world. It’s well-known cause is a virus named Variola. WHO (World Health Organization) have had a significant hand in smallpox eradication following its global immunization campaign.
What is a smallpox virus?
Smallpox is one of the most contagious diseases that man can face. It is the most infectious ones that are caused by either of the viruses named variola major and variola minor. The name for the disease came from the Latin word for spotted. It refers to a condition that leads to pus-filled blisters appearing not only on the face, but on every area of an infected man.
If we go back in history, the outbreaks of smallpox have taken place from time to time in thousands of years. There have been no cure or treatment for smallpox virus that exists.
A look at the brief history of smallpox:
Smallpox affected a large number of people worldwide, but now it no more exists. For centuries, the disease commonly spread, affecting political and social agendas. The evidences of smallpox virus were noticed in the Egyptian mummies. Further, the American natives never knew what smallpox was, but in 1600’s European explorers brought with them the contagious smallpox to the country. Once people tried to understand the cause and the whereabouts of the disease, the smallpox vaccination became imperative in the developed countries. The last case that appeared was in 1949 in the U.S. Whereas, the last case that occurred in the world was in Somalia (1977). Overall, the naturally occurring smallpox was eradicated in the year 1980 as part of the global immunization campaign led by WHO1.
Also read about other viruses: All about HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Infection
What are the symptoms of smallpox?
The smallpox virus spreads when the infected person’s saliva by coughing or sneezing unknowingly passes into the healthy man’s body. Close to close contact, in this case, should be denied. The common smallpox symptoms that may appear are:
• People exposed to a smallpox virus face initial symptoms like fever, body pain, chills, headache, and backache. About half of the people experience chills and vomiting too.
• In addition, a rash may appear 48-72 hours of the initial smallpox symptoms. It can turn into virus filled sores that later scab over.
• After the development of rashes over the body, it moves to the mucous membranes. The body sheds the cells, and virus particles are released, coughed, and sneezed into the environment. The person already infected can be infectious to about three weeks or until the scabs fall of the rash. The live virus is also present in the scabs. And when the scab falls off in a few weeks, then a light skinned scar remains.
• While during the initial course of the disease, the rashes were mistaken for chickenpox. In the smallpox virus, lesion first develops in the mouth proceeding to face, forearms, hands to rest of the body parts.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
The smallpox virus is easily suspected through the symptoms already mentioned. The initial symptoms of smallpox were sometimes misinterpreted with chicken pox. But if we compare, smallpox symptoms are much more severe. As part of the diagnosis, the first step will be to collect a piece of scab or fluid inside the pustules. Using an electron microscope and culturing the virus from the particular scab will confirm the diagnosis.
There is no cure for smallpox virus, control of fever, preventing dehydration and using antibiotics for the infection caused are few necessary measures for the patient. When the infected one is suspected with smallpox, others will try to maintain distance from him or watch him carefully for the signs and symptoms to appear once. The vaccines of smallpox are approved only for those who are at special risk of the same. It assures a high level of immunity for about 3-5 years, and if any person get his vaccine later then protection may last even long. No doubt vaccine proved effective to prevent the infection in most of the cases who got vaccinated.
Also read about other viruses: Ebola Virus Disease
No other disease than smallpox has been so contagious in the past decade. Because of the vaccination given to children in the US of 1 year of age, the disease altogether vanished in 1980. Smallpox is no longer a cause of worry anywhere in the world, so the vaccine is no more available.