What is small pox? What causes small pox?

Small pox is a highly contagious disease caused by the Orthopox virus, variola. This deadly disease remained a threat to humanity for thousands of years.

There are two types of small pox:

  • Small pox caused by variola major virus: This is a serious infection and is often fatal.
  • Small pox caused by variola minor virus. This milder form of small pox is not deadly.

What are the symptoms of small pox?

The symptoms of small pox usually develop within two weeks after the bacterial infection. You would be perfectly healthy during this initial stage. This initial stage is followed by flu-like symptoms such as fever, discomfort, headache, extreme fatigue and back ache. You may also experience vomiting, diarrhea or both.

How is small pox diagnosed?

A clinician can diagnose small pox by a simple physical examination of the patient. Blood test may also be conducted to check the presence of antibodies in the blood made in response to the variola virus.

How is small pox treated?

There isn’t any cure for small pox yet. Timely treatment can only reduce the symptoms and keep the person stay hydrated. If the person develops a bacterial infection in the lungs or on the skin, doctors prescribe a course of antibiotics.

Severity of small pox can be reduced if vaccinated within 4 days after exposed to disease. The person diagnosed with small pox is isolated immediately. Those who were in close contact with the patient should also be vaccinated and monitored.

The mortality rate associated with small pox was 30% in the past. Immunization programs were implemented to eradicate this deadly disease. The vaccination against small pox contains vaccinia virus which stimulates our immune system to produce antibodies against small pox.  Those vaccination programs were successful in wiping out small pox.  

What can be done to prevent small pox?

The threat of small pox has been completely eradicated. So you don’t have to receive vaccinations anymore. Nowadays small pox vaccination is given only to those who are at high risk for the disease such as, military personnel, health care workers, and emergency responders.