What Are the Symptoms of Smallpox?


Quick Answer

The first signs of a smallpox infection consist of flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, back pain and vomiting, according to Mayo Clinic. Within a few days, red, flat spots appear on the surface of the face, arms and hands, followed by the trunk of the body. Within one or two days, the spots turn into blisters filled with a clear fluid, followed by pus.

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Full Answer

Eight to nine days after the spots form, they turn into scabs that eventually fall off, leaving pitted scars, according to Mayo Clinic. Lesions also can develop in the nose and mouth when someone is infected with smallpox. Symptoms of smallpox typically appear 12 to 14 days after a patient becomes infected, during which time the person feels normal and is not contagious.

Smallpox can be transmitted from person to person both directly and indirectly, and can be transmitted via contaminated items, according to Mayo Clinic. As of 2014, there is no cure for smallpox, but a vaccine for the disease is available. Because the risks associated with the vaccine are serious, health officials would administer it widely only if an outbreak were to occur, according to Mayo Clinic. When a smallpox infection is present, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and keeping the patient hydrated. While most people recover from smallpox, some strains are particularly dangerous and have high rates of fatality. Smallpox that occurs naturally was eradicated by 1980 with a worldwide immunization program, but same samples were saved for research purposes.

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