Smallpox is an infectious disease caused by the variola virus. Variola major and variola minor are the two clinical types of smallpox. Variola major is the most widespread and severe of the two. Smallpox is unique to human beings, and can be found worldwide. This disease is also known by the Latin name Variola or Variola vera, meaning spotted, or varus, meaning “pimple”. Europe came up with the name smallpox, and later in the 15th century used the name of this disease to distinguish between syphilis (Wikipedia, 2010).
Smallpox is transmitted through the air, and spread by direct contact with an infected person. This disease is very contagious, but does not spread quickly because of its short infectious period (Wikipedia, 2010). On a lesser scale transmission can be via contaminated bed linen or clothes. A person who contracts smallpox can remain healthy and noninfectious for up to 17 days. Flulike symptoms occur initially, then a rash appears first on the face then spreads to the extremities. Other symptoms include muscle pain, malaise, headache, nausea, vomiting, prostration, and back pain. Ulcerative lesions develop in the mouth and nose, and these lesions then discharge large amounts of the virus into the throat. Approximately one-third of people who contract this disease die, but those who survive smallpox were left blind with deep pitted marks mainly on the face (Levin, 2007).
Vaccination is the primary treatment for smallpox, and no medication is currently approved for treatment of this disease. Smallpox vaccination is needed within three days of exposure to prevent and decrease the severity of smallpox. Being vaccinated four to seven days after exposure will also modify the severity of the disease or may offer some defense from the disease. People with smallpox are given supportive care, intravenous fluids, and medicine is administered to control fever and pain. Antiviral drugs are also used as a therapeutic agent (Wikipedia, 2010).
There was a major endemic breakout of smallpox everywhere except Australia, and several islands in the 18th century. Approximately 10 million to 15 million cases of smallpox was reported in fifty countries and of the 10 million 1.5 to 2 million people died from the disease each year. The eradication of smallpox was not readily made a major concern until proper funds were available in 1965, by the United States (Levine, 2007).
Eradicating smallpox was not an easy task. Vaccination alone would not be enough to eradicate this disease. To eradicate smallpox, all outbreaks had to be kept from spreading, so isolation was mandatory for all who lived nearby. Many cases were not reported and caused an initial problem. Eradicating smallpox was easily achieved, because humans are the only reservoir for the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) initiated a team of people to aid in setting up surveillance and containment in countries. A recognizable decrease in its incidence was not seen until the 19th...