Smallpox Vaccine

What Is Smallpox?

Smallpox is a disease caused by a virus. At one time, it was one of the world’s most feared infections. Smallpox has no treatment or cure. It can be fatal. Smallpox is nearly nonexistent as a result of a worldwide vaccination effort. The last case in the US was in 1949. The last naturally occurring case in the world occurred in 1977. There have been no cases of smallpox reported anywhere. The vaccine is no longer given. Because of bioterrorism threats, it’s important to remember the facts about smallpox.Smallpox can be spread from person to person by direct, face-to-face contact. It can also be spread through bodily fluids or linens and clothing that have been contaminated. Smallpox can be spread through the air, although this is rare.The primary symptoms include:
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Vomiting
As the virus advances, a red rash appears on the tongue and in the mouth. The rash then spreads. Spots begin to break open. The rash spreads across the body. It turns from red spots into raised bumps. By day 4, the bumps fill with fluid and have a depression in the middle. Scabs form over all of the bumps.

What Is the Smallpox Vaccine?

The smallpox vaccine contains a live virus, called the vaccinia virus. This is related to smallpox. The vaccine is given as multiple pinpricks usually in the arm.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

You should get the vaccine if you have come in contact with the virus or if you are at risk. The vaccine is not given to the general public. You will get the vaccine if you are in the military and work in high threat areas.

What Are the Risks Associated With the Smallpox Vaccine?

A live virus is injected into the skin. It is possible to spread it to other areas of the body, or even to other people. The injection site must be protected to prevent this from happening.Common side effects of smallpox vaccine include:
  • Rash and itching
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Body aches
  • Soreness in the arm
More serious, but less common side effects include:
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle or sac around the heart
  • Swelling of the brain or spinal cord
  • Infection at the site of the vaccine
  • Severe allergic reaction

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