Potential long-term effects of smallpox include scars, blindness and deformation of the hands and feet, according to the Cape May County Health Department. Early treatment in the case of smallpox exposure can reduce the risk of these effects.
Although there is no treatment for smallpox, there is a vaccine which can inoculate individuals even after exposure, states the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Symptoms of smallpox take seven to seventeen days to appear. Vaccination within the first seven days of exposure, before symptoms appear, can severely weaken the disease in the case of an infected person. Within the first three days of exposure, vaccination can completely prevent the infection.
Because the last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949, and the last case worldwide was in Somalia in 1977, the disease is considered to be eradicated. There is virtually no risk of smallpox naturally occurring. Smallpox vaccination for the general public is not offered because the disease is considered eradicated.
Smallpox was caused by the Variola virus, both the major and minor variants. Smallpox is not spread by insects or animals, and is not naturally occurring. Smallpox can be spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, touching skin that has smallpox lesions or breathing in a confined space shared with someone who has smallpox.