Smallpox - What is Smallpox and How Does it Affect You?

Smallpox is a viral disease that affects the skin and nervous system. It was a common, fatal illness in the past but is now prevented by vaccines. Vaccines protect against smallpox and other diseases like chicken pox, shingles, and measles.

The first signs of smallpox appear 12 to 14 days after a person is exposed to the virus. They include high fever, fatigue, and headaches. Flat red spots may appear on the face, arms, or legs, which can spread to other areas of the body.

After a few days, a characteristic rash appears, most often on the face, hands, and feet. It is a flat, red, spotty rash that can last up to three weeks. The rash begins with small vesicles that quickly turn into pustules, which fill with clear fluid. The pustules then crust, form scabs, and fall off. The scabs leave deep scars in people who develop smallpox.

During the pre-vaccine era, a person with smallpox was usually kept isolated and not allowed to go about their daily activities. Doctors gave them supportive care to manage the symptoms. This treatment was effective, but a weakened immune system made people more likely to get smallpox again.

In the era before vaccines, smallpox spread around the world through contact with infected persons and their clothing or bedding. It was also passed by air droplets, and people could spread the disease to others during the incubation period.

Historians say that the virus spread from Europe to Asia, Africa, and North America as a result of growth in civilization and exploration over centuries. The 7th Century brought Arab expansion, and the 11th century saw crusades that further spread it throughout Europe.

The virus is spread from one person to another through breathing in droplets of the smallpox virus that come into contact with the lungs. During the first week of infection, there is the greatest risk of spreading the disease to other people. After the scabs have fallen off, there is less risk.

Once a person is diagnosed with smallpox, they should stay home from work and school, not go out in public, and keep their distance from children. They should also avoid sharing clothes or bed linens with anyone who has smallpox until their scabs have fallen off. This includes family members and caregivers.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent smallpox, but it can have side effects. Some of these reactions are not serious and are normal, but others can be serious, such as a life-threatening reaction called encephalitis.

A small number of people may experience a more serious reaction, such as a severe allergic response or a nervous system problem called encephalitis that can lead to convulsions and coma. These reactions are rare, but they can be very dangerous if they happen to people with a weak immune system.

Vaccines are the best way to prevent smallpox, and they are available for free. Those who volunteer to receive a smallpox vaccine must answer detailed questions about their medical history and physical health. A doctor will also ask about any other illnesses and medications, including those you take for diabetes, high blood pressure, or thyroid problems. If you have any of these conditions, you should not receive the smallpox vaccine.

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