Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- What is smallpox?
- What is the history of smallpox?
- What causes smallpox?
- How is smallpox transmitted?
- What are smallpox symptoms and signs?
- How is smallpox diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for smallpox?
- Can smallpox be prevented with a vaccine?
- What is the prognosis for smallpox, and what are complications of smallpox?
- Where can people find more information on smallpox?
- Smallpox At A Glance
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What is the prognosis for smallpox, and what are complications of smallpox?
Approximately one-third of people with smallpox died. Those who survived bore the scars of the disease for life. If the eye was infected, blindness was common. In the 19th century, smallpox was the leading cause of childhood blindness. It is possible that experimental medications will decrease complications and mortality rates, but this cannot be tested since human disease no longer exists. However, if the disease was reintroduced to humans (for example, by bioterrorists or other individuals), some investigators suggest the death rate may exceed one-third of the population and debilitate and scar many of those people that survive the disease.
Where can people find more information on smallpox?
The CDC web site (http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/index.asp) is an excellent source of information on smallpox. It provides comprehensive information on the disease and the vaccine.
- Smallpox is a contagious disease caused by the variola virus.
- Smallpox was the first disease to be eliminated from the world through public-health efforts and vaccination.
- Smallpox still poses a threat because existing laboratory strains may be used as biological weapons.
- Smallpox causes high fever, prostration, and a characteristic rash. The rash usually includes blister-like lesions that occur everywhere on the body.
- Approximately one-third of people with smallpox died from the disease. Survivors were scarred for life. If the eye was infected, blindness often resulted.
- There are new experimental medications that might be effective in smallpox, but these have not been tested in human cases since the disease has been eradicated.
- The vaccine contains a live virus called vaccinia. It is administered by dipping a pronged piece of metal into the vaccine and then pricking the skin.
- The vaccine has uncommon side effects that may be fatal, including infection of the heart and brain with the vaccinia strain. Serious side effects are more common with the initial vaccine and are uncommon with second doses.
- The vaccine is currently only given to selected military personnel and laboratory workers who handle the smallpox virus.
McFadden, G. "Killing a Killer: What Next for Smallpox?" PLoS Pathog 6.1 Jan. 29, 2010: e1000727.
Last Editorial Review: 12/21/2010 8:19:56 PM
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