Smallpox has plagued the human race for thousands of years. This variola virus, in its most common form, has a 30% mortality rate. The rarer, but far more deadly, strain is almost always fatal. Thanks to the invention of the vaccine, smallpox has been eradicated from all populations in the world and now only exists in laboratories.
The last outbreak of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949. The last known outbreak occurred in Somalia in 1977. Since the virus has been eradicated, vaccinations for smallpox have become unnecessary and are no longer administered. Today, the only fear of outbreak is from a biological weapon.
Smallpox spreads in humans through direct face to face contact. This is usually the only way that the virus spreads, but it has also been known to transfer through bodily fluids as well as through inanimate objects such as clothing. In a few rare cases, the virus has been known to become airborne and can travel through contained, indoor areas.
Once a person has contracted the virus, incubation period usually lasts between 7 and 14 days. During this time no symptoms are exhibited and the carrier is not contagious. After this period, the first symptoms of the virus include an unusually high body temperature, severe body aches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting. These symptoms usually last several days before a rash appears on the tongue and in the mouth. This rash turns into sores, which eventually erupt. During this period is when an infected person is at the highest contagious level. After several days, the rash will eventually spread all over the body. After 4 days, the rash will turn into liquid filled sores that completely cover the infected person.
Once the sores have spread across the body, they will eventually raise and harden. These pustules will form a crust and then scab over. 2 weeks after the initial rash appeared, all of these raised bumps will have scabbed over. These scabs will eventually start to fall off, leaving the infected person with scars. These scabs take about a week to fall off and a person is still contagious until all the scabs are gone.
There is no treatment and no cure for Smallpox. Once diagnosed, all one can do is remain isolated, hope that they haven’t contracted the fatal form of the virus, and wait the 3 weeks it takes for the virus to run its course. There is a 90% chance that the less deadly form of the virus has been contracted, but thanks to the Smallpox vaccine there is no way to catch the virus, save an intentional biological attack.