Small Pox - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Smallpox is a disfiguring, highly contagious disease that occurs due to the variola virus. There is no such cure for smallpox. It affected humans for thousands of years and took many people towards death because of being deadly. However, until 1980, it was almost completely eradicated because of global vaccination. But still, in laboratories, the strains of smallpox are present for research purposes. People are not vaccinated nowadays for smallpox because the risk is low, and the vaccine has side effects. People who are at risk are only vaccinated against it.


The symptoms of smallpox can be described as;

Incubation period- this is the period when the virus incubates inside your body. It has a duration of 7 to 17 days and occurs after getting exposed to the virus. The virus shows no signs and symptoms at this stage. 

Nonspecific signs and symptoms- at this stage, the infection presents with cough, runny nose, and fever. The symptoms resemble the general illness, and it lasts for 2 to 3 days. At this stage, it may cause;

  • Fever

  • Severe back pain

  • Vomiting, possibly

  • Overall discomfort

  • Headache

  • Severe fatigue

Acute illness accompanied by rashes- the severity of symptoms increase, and rashes also start to occur. Fever may rise to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Spots and rashes start to cover up your body. It causes lesions that turn into small blisters filled with clear fluid, eventually pus accumulation. Scabs begin to form eight to nine days later and eventually fall off, leaving deep, pitted scars.


Smallpox is caused by the Variola virus that can be transmitted by;

Close contact with the infected person:

Being in close company with the infected person can spread the infection as it is very contagious. 

Sharing articles with the infected person:

Sharing articles with an infected person can result in the spread of the infection as the virus can survive on fomites. Sharing personal objects like razors, towels, gloves, beddings, clothes, etc can spread the infection from one person to another.

Breathing in the same air

Very rarely, smallpox is transmitted through respiratory secretions. A healthy person getting in contact with those respiratory secretions can get the infection. If an infected person leaves their virus-containing bronchial secretions at a surface after coughing, the healthy person if touches the same surface and puts their fingers in the eyes, nose, or mouth, they can get infection too. Therefore, a person having smallpox should be asked to isolate themselves. 

Risk factors of getting smallpox:

The following factors predispose a person to a high risk of catching smallpox infection:

Never getting the vaccination:

Vaccination provides a key role in providing lifelong immunity against smallpox. Those adults and children who have never got vaccinated against the variola virus are at a greater risk of getting smallpox.

Recent exposure to an infected person:

People who have had recent exposure to a person who was infected with the variola virus are at a high risk of getting smallpox themselves.

Pregnant women:

Pregnant women who haven’t received smallpox vaccination are at a high risk of getting smallpox. Moreover, pregnant women are at a greater risk of getting smallpox-related complications.

Lowered immunity:

Any condition that causes the immune system to be suppressed causes different bacteria and viruses to infect an individual as the immune system is responsible for fighting off different infections. Conditions like AIDS, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes, etc. can predispose a person to catch infections like smallpox. Low immunity can also cause chickenpox to become complicated.


The diagnosis is mostly made by looking at the rashes. The doctor identifies the rashes due to their characteristic appearance. Moreover, your doctor may order lab tests to confirm the diagnosis.


Vaccines of smallpox are not safe as they have too many side effects. Therefore they are not given generally. But a person diagnosed with smallpox should practice the following tips;

Isolate yourself from healthy people during the infectious period for at least 10 to 14 days.

Do not let anyone else share your personal items.


Smallpox is a viral infection that can become deadly. As soon as you have any symptoms of it, you should seek professional help. Do not delay your visit to the healthcare provider.

Doctors For Small Pox

Dr. Zafar Iqbal

General Physician

30 Years

Dr. Zia Ur Rehman Siddiqui

General Physician

15 Years

Dr. Lubna Meraj

General Physician

11 Years

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