Munson Health
Smallpox Vaccine

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by Kohnle D

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 four, the bumps fill with fluid and have a depression in the middle. Scabs form over all of the bumps.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

The following people should not get vaccinated:
Talk to your doctor to find out if the vaccine is safe for you.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Department of Health & Human Services



Emergency preparedness and response. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed November 30, 2012.

Medication guide: Smallpox (vaccinia) vaccine, live. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: Updated October 2009. Accessed November 30, 2012.

People who should not get the smallpox vaccine. US Department of Health & Human Services website. Available at: Accessed June 13, 2007.

Smallpox. World Health Organization website. Available at: Accessed February 6, 2007.

Smallpox disease overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated December 30, 2004. Accessed November 30, 2012.


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