Also known as: variola, variola vera.

What is smallpox?

Smallpox is a dangerous viral infection. It was eradicated globally in the 1980s due to the widespread distribution and use of immunizations. In most cases, children are currently not immunized for smallpox due to the low risk of developing the disease now.

What causes smallpox?

A virus called variola causes smallpox. It can be spread by person to person contact, or through items that are infected with the smallpox virus.

What are the symptoms of smallpox?

Smallpox symptoms start with flu-like symptoms such as:

  • fatigue
  • headache
  • fever
  • back pain
  • vomiting
  • discomfort

Soon, red spots appear on the face, hands, and trunk. These spots turn into blisters and eventually leave deep scars. The complications of smallpox can be dangerous and life-threatening.

What are smallpox care options?

There is no cure for smallpox, but the chance of developing the disease now is quite small. If smallpox were to occur, care would focus on treating the symptoms and keeping the person well-hydrated until the infection passes.

Children with smallpox cannot go back to school until resolution of the rash.

Reviewed by: P. Marcelo Laufer, MD

This page was last updated on: July 22, 2022 10:46 AM

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