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Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor.[7] The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977, and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980.[10] The risk of death after contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies.[6][11] Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin, and some were left blind.[6]

The initial symptoms of the disease included fever and vomiting.[5] This was followed by formation of sores in the mouth and a skin rash.[5] Over a number of days the skin rash turned into characteristic fluid-filled bumps with a dent in the center.[5] The bumps then scabbed over and fell off, leaving scars.[5] The disease was spread between people or via contaminated objects.[6][12] Prevention was achieved mainly through the smallpox vaccine.[9] Once the disease had developed, certain antiviral medication may have helped.[9]

The origin of smallpox is unknown;infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor.[7] The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977, and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980.[10] The risk of death after contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies.[6][11] Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin, and some were left blind.[6]

The initial symptoms of the disease included fever and vomiting.[5] This was followed by formation of sores in the mouth and a skin rash.[5] Over a number of days the skin rash turned into characteristic fluid-filled bumps with a dent in the center.[5] The bumps then scabbed over and fell off, leaving scars.[5] The disease was spread between people or via contaminated objects.[6][12] Prevention was achieved mainly through the smallpox vaccine.[9] Once the disease had developed, certain antiviral medication may have helped.[9]

The origin of smallpox is unknown;[13] however, the earliest evidence of the disease dates to the 3rd century BCE in Egyptian mummies.[13] The disease historically occurred in outbreaks.[10] In 18th-century Europe, it is estimated that 400,000 people died from the disease per year, and that one-third of all cases of blindness were due to smallpox.[10][14] Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century[15][16] and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence,[17] as well as six monarchs.[10][14]As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year.[10]

Inoculation for smallpox appears to have started in China around the 1500s.[18][19] Europe adopted this practice from Asia in the first half of the 18th century.[20] In 1796 Edward Jenner introduced the modern smallpox vaccine.[21][22] In 1967, the WHO intensified efforts to eliminate the disease.[10] Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest in 2011.[23][24] The term "smallpox" was first used in Britain in the early 16th century

The initial symptoms of the disease included fever and vomiting.[5] This was followed by formation of sores in the mouth and a skin rash.[5] Over a number of days the skin rash turned into characteristic fluid-filled bumps with a dent in the center.[5] The bumps then scabbed over and fell off, leaving scars.[5] The disease was spread between people or via contaminated objects.[6][12] Prevention was achieved mainly through the smallpox vaccine.[9] Once the disease had developed, certain antiviral medication may have helped.[9]

The origin of smallpox is unknown;[13] however, the earliest evidence of the disease dates to the 3rd century BCE in Egyptian mummies.[13] The disease historically occurred in outbreaks.[10] In 18th-century Europe, it is estimated that 400,000 people died from the disease per year, and that one-third of all cases of blindness were due to smallpox.[10][14] Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century[15][16] and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence,[17] as well as six monarchs.[10][14]As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year.[10]

Inoculation for smallpox appears to have started in China around the 1500s.[18][19] Europe adopted this practice from Asia in the first half of the 18th century.[20] In 1796 Edward Jenner introduced the modern smallpox vaccine.[21][22] In 1967, the WHO intensified efforts to eliminate the disease.[10] Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest in 2011.[23][24] The term "smallpox" was first used in Britain in the early 16th century to distinguish the disease from syphilis, which was then known as the "great pox".[25][26] Other historical names for the disease include pox, speckled monster, and red plague.[3][4][26]

There were two forms of the smallpox virus. Variola major was the severe and most common form, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. It could result in confluent smallpox, which had a high death rate of about 30%. Variola minor was a less common presentation, causing a less severe disease, typically discrete smallpox, with historical death rates of 1% or less.[28] Subclinical (asymptomatic) infections with Variola virus were noted but were not common.[29] In addition, a form called variola sine eruptione (smallpox without rash) was seen generally in vaccinated persons. This form was marked by a fever that occurred after the usual incubation period and could be confirmed only by antibody studies or, rarely, by virus isolation.[29] In addition, there were two very rare and fulminating types of smallpox, the malignant and hemorrhagic forms, which were usually fatal.

Signs and symptoms