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Smallpox is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by a virus of the genus Orthopoxvirus, which can be transmitted through droplets of saliva or sneeze. Upon entering the body, this virus grows and multiplies inside the cells, leading to the appearance of symptoms such as high fever, body aches, intense vomiting and the appearance of blisters on the skin.
When infection occurs, treatment aims to reduce the symptoms of the disease and prevent transmission to other people, and the use of antibiotics may also be indicated to prevent the appearance of associated bacterial infections.
Despite being a serious, highly contagious and incurable disease, smallpox is considered eradicated by the World He alth Organization due to the success related to vaccination against the disease. Despite this, vaccination can still be recommended in some places due to the fear associated with bioterrorism or be recommended after contact with the virus, preventing the development of complications of the disease.
Symptoms of Smallpox
Early smallpox symptoms include:
- High fever;
- Muscle pain in the body;
- Lumbar pain;
- General malaise;
- Intense vomiting;
- Tummy ache;
These symptoms appear 10 to 12 days after infection with the virus and are usually followed by the appearance of blisters in the mouth, face and/or arms, which quickly spread to the trunk and legs.
Smallpox blisters can easily burst and lead to scarring. After a while the blisters, especially those on the face and trunk, become more hardened and may appear to be adhered to the skin.
Monkeypox, or monkeypox, is an infectious disease caused by a virus belonging to the same genus as the smallpox virus, but which is transmitted from wild animals to people. Despite being known as "monkey pox", the main reservoir of this virus is believed to be rodents.
In general, monkeypox is self-limiting, that is, the symptoms disappear in about 14 to 21 days, without the need for specific treatment. The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to the symptoms of "ordinary" smallpox, with blisters and ulcerated skin lesions, fever, chills, headache and muscle pain reported. Learn more about monkeypox.
How the transmission happens
Smallpox transmission occurs mainly through inhalation or contact with saliva from people infected with the virus. Although less common, transmission can also occur through personal clothing or bedding.
Smallpox is most contagious in the first week of infection, but as wounds crust over, transmissibility decreases.
Treatment for smallpox
Smallpox treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infections, which can occur due to the fragility of the immune system. In addition, it is recommended that the person stay in isolation to prevent the transmission of the virus to other people.
In 2018 the drug Tecovirimat was approved and in 2021 Brincidofovir was approved, which have activity against the smallpox virus and can effectively fight the infection. However, these drugs have not been tested on sick people and, therefore, their real effect on humans is not known.
The smallpox vaccine is able to prevent the onset of the disease, if administered before exposure to the smallpox virus, and/or prevent the disease from being severe, provided it is administered within 4 to 7 days after exposure to the virus.
The smallpox vaccine is made up of a virus similar to the smallpox virus, vaccinia, which is similar to the smallpox virus, but is less dangerous and is capable of generating an immune response against the smallpox virus.
The smallpox vaccine is not part of the basic vaccination schedule in Brazil, as the disease was considered eradicated more than 30 years ago. However, the vaccine may be indicated in the event of a threat of bioterrorism, in areas where cases of the disease have been identified or for professionals who work in a laboratory where this virus is manipulated.