What are the Symptoms of Smallpox?

Smallpox, an eradicated viral disease caused by the variola virus, had distinct symptoms that progressed through different stages. The symptoms of smallpox included:

  1. Initial Symptoms (Incubation Stage):
    • High fever
    • Malaise (general feeling of illness)
    • Headache
    • Severe muscle aches
  2. Early Stage:
    • The fever is persistent and high, often reaching around 101-104°F (38-40°C).
    • Severe fatigue and weakness
    • Backache
    • Vomiting
    • Delirium and confusion in some cases
  3. Rash Development:
    • After a few days, a rash appears as flat, red spots on the face, mouth, and throat.
    • The rash spreads to the arms and trunk, then to the legs.
    • Within a day or two, the spots become raised and filled with clear fluid (pustules).
    • These pustules are painful and intensely itchy.
  4. Pustule Stage:
    • The pustules eventually become filled with pus, and scab formation begins.
    • The pustules are firm and round and often feel like a small, round pellet under the skin.
  5. Scabbing Stage:
    • The pustules dry out and form scabs.
    • The scabs fall off after about two weeks, leaving pitted scars.
  6. Complications:
    • In severe cases, complications can occur, including secondary bacterial infections of the skin or other organs, pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), or sepsis.

It’s important to note that smallpox was a highly contagious and deadly disease. Due to a successful global vaccination campaign, smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, making it the first human disease eradicated through vaccination efforts.

Since the disease no longer exists naturally in the population, current generations are not at risk of contracting smallpox. However, laboratory samples of the virus still exist in a few locations for research purposes.

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