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12/12/23 Public Education Topic: Smallpox

Before smallpox was eradicated, it was a serious infectious disease caused by the variola virus. It was contagious which means, it spread from one person to another. People who had smallpox had a fever and a distinctive, progressive skin rash.

Most people with smallpox recovered, but about 3 out of every 10 people with the disease died. Many smallpox survivors have permanent scars over large areas of their body, especially their faces. Some are left blind.

Thanks to the success of vaccination, smallpox was eradicated, and no cases of naturally occurring smallpox have happened since 1977. The last natural outbreak of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949.


There are vaccines to protect people from smallpox. Currently, smallpox vaccines are not recommended for the general public because smallpox has been eradicated. If there were a smallpox outbreak, health officials would use smallpox vaccines to control it. While some antiviral drugs may help treat smallpox disease, there is no treatment for smallpox that has been tested in people who are sick with the disease and proven effective.


To learn more about the history of smallpox visit:



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