What is the expected duration of Smallpox?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Aug 10, 2011
Quick Bites

  • The smallpox virus can spread through saliva droplets.
  • The incubation period of smallpox is about 12 to 14 days.
  • WHO had wiped out smallpox viruses from the world in the 1970s.
  • There is not much chance for you to get infected by the virus.

Once upon a time, the disease called smallpox caused havoc throughout the world causing numerous illnesses and deaths. Smallpox is mainly responsible for affecting children and young adults and it has been found that family members infect each other with the disease.

The smallpox virus can easily spread from one person to another from saliva droplets and can spread from bed sheets and clothing and is most contagious when it is just fresh. Which means you will need to be careful when someone has smallpox virus during the first week. The virus can continue to be very contagious until the scabs from your rash falls off, and researchers are under the impression that the infection might be able to stay alive for as long as 24 hours given the right conditions. Otherwise when the conditions are not favourable it can only remain alive for may be just 6 hours or so. Now you need to understand that smallpox is not related to chicken pox and in fact it is a milder version of the two.

small pox

What Causes Smallpox?

There are two forms of smallpox, namely, variola major which is a serious illness and can be life threatening in people who have not been vaccinated, and another on being variola minor which is a milder infection and rarely causes death.

You have chances of developing smallpox if you work at a laboratory and handle this rare virus or are located where the virus was released as a biological weapon. It is not know long past the vaccinations stay effective in people as those who receive the vaccine many years ago may no longer be completely protected against the virus. The smallpox as we have mentioned before passes from person from person through the inhalation of air droplets or aerosols and it is very important that those diagnosed with smallpox do not come face to face with healthy beings.

It is important to note here that the World Health Organization had wiped out all known smallpox viruses from the world in the 1970s except for a few samples that were saved for government research. The research continues and so does that debate that decides on whether to kill the last remaining samples of the virus or to preserve it for future studies.

The Expected Duration

Incubation period is defined as the time from being infected to the appearance of symptoms. After becoming infected with the variola virus (the virus that causes smallpox), the virus begins to multiply within the body and the symptoms develop once enough viruses are present.

The incubation period of smallpox is about 12 to 14 days, but the symptoms can begin as early as 7 days or as late as 17 days after infection with the virus.

The expected duration of smallpox lasts about five weeks. This includes;

•  Incubation period — an average of 12 days
•  Initial symptoms — about 4 days
•  Early rash — 4 days
•  Pustular rash — 5 days
•  Scabs — 5 days
•  Scabs to fall off — 6 days

small pox duration

The Symptoms and Eventual Healing

The very first symptom of smallpox is high fever, fatigue, headaches and backaches. You will also find a rash which would appear mostly on the face, arms, and legs and this will start about two to three days later. This rash will begin as a flat, spotty rash and would develop into small vesicles which would later become what we call pus. These pustules will grow bigger with time and will cause a lot of pain to the infected person. Then you will have crusts on about the eighth or ninth day of the rash and the scabs will separate which will leave deep and pitted scars.

The truth is that it is very unlikely that you or any one in your family can come in contact with the smallpox virus and therefore you should just forget the scare and instead live a hygienic life.

Image Courtesy: gettyimages.in

Read more articles on Understand Smallpox.


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