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Images of variola virus. Educate staff and patients about smallpox and the importance of vaccination. Photos of unvaccinated people with the disease.
Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, variola major and variola minor. 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. The risk of death following contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies. Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin and some were left blind. The initial symptoms of the disease included fever and vomiting. This was followed by formation of sores in the mouth and a skin rash. Over a number of days the skin rash turned into characteristic fluid filled bumps with a dent in the center. The bumps then scabbed over and fell off leaving scars. The disease used to spread between people or via contaminated objects. Prevention was by the smallpox vaccine. Once the disease had developed certain antiviral medication may have helped. The origin of smallpox is unknown. The earliest evidence of the disease dates back to the 3rd century BCE in Egyptian mummies. The disease historically occurred in outbreaks. In 18th century Europe it is estimated 400,000 people per year died from the disease, and one-third of the cases resulted in blindness. These deaths included those of four reigning monarchs and a queen consort. In the 20th century it is estimated that smallpox resulted in 300–500 million deaths. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year. Edward Jenner discovered in 1798 that vaccination could prevent smallpox. In 1967, the WHO intensified efforts to eliminate the disease. Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest in 2011. The term "smallpox" was first used in Britain in the 15th century to distinguish the disease from syphilis, which was then known as the "great pox". Other historical names for the disease include pox, speckled monster, and red plague.
Cowpox is an infectious disease caused by the cowpox virus. The virus, part of the orthopoxvirus genus, is closely related to the vaccinia virus. The virus is zoonotic, meaning that it is transferable between species, such as from animal to human. The transferral of the disease was first observed in dairymaids who touched the udders of infected cows and consequently developed the signature pustules on their hands. Cowpox is more commonly found in animals other than bovines, such as rodents. Cowpox is similar to, but much milder than, the highly contagious and often deadly smallpox disease. Its close resemblance to the mild form of smallpox and the observation that dairy farmers were immune from smallpox inspired the first smallpox vaccine, created and administered by English physician Edward Jenner. The word “vaccination,” coined by Jenner in 1796, is derived from the Latin root vaccinus, meaning of or from the cow. Once vaccinated, a patient develops antibodies that make them immune to cowpox, but they also develop immunity to the smallpox virus, or Variola virus.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus that can occur in certain animals including humans. Symptoms begin with fever, headache, muscle pains, swollen lymph nodes, and feeling tired. This is followed by a rash that forms blisters and crusts over. The time from exposure to onset of symptoms is around 10 days. The duration of symptoms is typically 2 to 5 weeks. Monkeypox may be spread from handling bush meat, an animal bite or scratch, body fluids, contaminated objects, or close contact with an infected person. The virus is believed to normally circulate among certain rodents in Africa. Diagnosis can be confirmed by testing a lesion for the virus's DNA. The disease can appear similar to chickenpox. The smallpox vaccine is believed to prevent infection. Cidofovir may be useful as treatment. The risk of death in those infected is up to 10%. The disease mostly occurs in Central and West Africa. It was first identified in 1958 among laboratory monkeys. The first cases in humans were found in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An outbreak that occurred in the United States in 2003 was traced to a pet store where imported Gambian rodents were sold.