How Much Do You Know About Smallpox?
Smallpox was once found throughout the world, causing illness and death wherever it occurred. Smallpox was mainly a disease of children and young adults, with family members often infecting each other. A large program by the World Health Organization (WHO)got rid of all known smallpox viruses from the world. The disease was declared eliminated in 1980. Although the disease no longer exists, samples of the virus that caused smallpox were saved by a few governments for research purposes. All research using the variola virus is overseen by the WHO. The agency reviews the research that is proposed each year.
4. Which symptom of smallpox infection shows up first?
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After the incubation period, the first symptoms of smallpox show up. They are a lot like flu symptoms: fever of 101°F (38.3°C) to 104°F (40°C), headache, back pain, body aches, malaise, and sometimes vomiting. These first symptoms are called the prodrome phase. They last 2 to 4 days. The person is sometimes contagious. Two to 3 days after these symptoms begin, a rash appears, first on the tongue and in the mouth. The rash sores break open and spread the virus in the mouth and throat. The person is most contagious at this time. A rash also breaks out on the skin, beginning on the face. This spreads to the arms and legs, and then to the hands and feet. Within 24 hours, the rash has spread to all parts of the body. The rash then turns into raised bumps (pustules) that fill with fluid and often have a depression in the middle resembling a bellybutton. This is a “hallmark” sign of smallpox. A person is still contagious during this time. These bumps break open and release the virus. Then a crust forms. About 2 weeks after symptoms begin, the bumps form scabs. These scabs also contain the virus. A person with smallpox is contagious until all the scabs have fallen off. When the scabs fall off, scars remain on the skin.
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