Smallpox - Treatment
Variola - major and minor; Variola
If athe smallpox vaccine is given within 1-4 days after a person is exposed to the disease, it may prevent illness or make the illness less severe. Once symptoms have started, treatment is limited.
There is no drug specifically for treating smallpox. Sometimes antibiotics are given for infections that may occur in people who have smallpox. Taking antibodies against a disease similar to smallpox (vaccinia immune globulin) may help shorten the duration of the disease.
People who have been diagnosed with smallpox and everyone they have come into close contact with need to be isolated immediately. They need to receive the vaccine and be monitored.
Emergency measures would need to be taken immediately to protect the general population. Health officials would follow the recommended guidelines from the CDC and other federal and local health agencies.
In the past, this was a major illness with the risk of death as high as 30%.
- Arthritis and bone infections
- Brain swelling (encephalitis)
- Eye infections
- Severe bleeding
- Skin infections (from the sores)
Calling your health care provider:
If you think you may have been exposed to smallpox, contact your health care provider immediately. Because smallpox has been wiped out this would be very unlikely, unless you have worked with the virus in a laboratory or there has been an act of bioterrorism.
- Reviewed last on: 6/23/2011
- Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Damon, Inger. Orthopoxviruses: vaccinia (smallpox vaccine), variola (smallpox), monkeypox, and cowpox. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier;2005:chap 129.
Frequently asked questions about smallpox vaccine. CDC Emergency preparedness and response. Accessed February 7, 2007.
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