What is the Prognosis of Smallpox

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Aug 10, 2011
Quick Bites

  • Smallpox is a serious and contagious disease due to a virus.
  • In the past, the risk of death from it was as high as 30%.
  • Many people were vaccinated against smallpox in the past.
  • Vaccine is no longer used because the virus has been wiped out.

An ordinary-type small pox is marked by a 30% of overall case-fatality rate. Case-fatality rate or case fatality ratio is defined as the proportion of deaths within a designated population of "cases"), over the course of the disease.

However, it may vary by pock distribution- ordinary type-confluent is fatal about 50–75% of the time, ordinary-type semi-confluent about 25–50% of the time, in cases where the rash is discrete the case-fatality rate is less than 10%.

Complication of Small Pox

Possible complications of small pox are:

  • Arthritis and bone infections
  • Brain swelling (encephalitis)
  • Death
  • Eye infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Scarring
  • Severe bleeding
  • Skin infections (from the sores)

Prognosis of Small Pox

Symptoms of Small Pox

Smallpox gets its name from its most common symptom: small blisters erupting on the face, arms, and body that become pustules (filled with pus).

  • Flu-like fatigue, headache, body ache, and occasionally vomiting.
  • High fever.
  • Mouth sores and blisters that spread the virus into the throat.
  • A progressive skin rash that follows a predictable pattern:
  • The rash starts with flat red sores that a few days later become raised bumps.
  • The bumps turn into fluid-filled blisters.
  • The blisters become pustules.
  • The pustules crust over, usually in the second week of smallpox.
  • Scabs form over the blisters and then fall off, usually in the third week of the disease, resulting in scars that are often disfiguring.
  • Blindness commonly resulted when blisters formed near the eyes.


Prevention from Small Pox

An effective prevention against small pox is a vaccine made from virus vaccinia. The similarity between these two names (vaccine and vaccinia) is not coincidental because smallpox was the first disease to be prevented by vaccination.

The vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine and vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) are available only through the CDC and state health agencies.

Currently, the only licensed smallpox vaccine is Dryvax. However, several other vaccines are being assessed in clinical trials.

The smallpox vaccine actually contains live viral particles of vaccinia, a virus similar to smallpox. This virus usually does not cause disease in humans.

Treatment for Small Pox

If the smallpox vaccine is given within 1-4 days after a person is exposed to the disease, it may prevent illness or make the illness less severe. Once symptoms have started, treatment is limited.

There is no drug specifically for treating smallpox. Sometimes antibiotics are given for infections that may occur in people who have smallpox. Taking antibodies against a disease similar to smallpox (vaccinia immune globulin) may help shorten the duration of the disease.

People who have been diagnosed with smallpox and everyone they have come into close contact with need to be isolated immediately. They need to receive the vaccine and be monitored.

Emergency measures would need to be taken immediately to protect the general population. Health officials would follow the recommended guidelines from the CDC and other federal and local health agencies.

Image Courtesy: Getty

Read more articles on Smallpox Diagnosis and Prognosis



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