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- Smallpox facts
- What is smallpox?
- What is the history of smallpox?
- What causes smallpox?
- What are the risk factors for smallpox?
- Is smallpox contagious, and how long is it contagious?
- What is the incubation period for smallpox?
- How is smallpox transmitted?
- What are smallpox symptoms and signs?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose smallpox?
- What specialists treat smallpox?
- What is the treatment for smallpox?
- Can smallpox be prevented with a vaccine?
- What is the prognosis for smallpox, and what are complications of smallpox?
- Where can people find more information on smallpox?
How do health-care professionals diagnose smallpox?
When smallpox was common, an experienced clinician could make the diagnosis simply by looking at the rash and examining the patient. Any case that occurs now will likely be a result of bioterrorism or biological warfare. In that event, misdiagnosis or delays in diagnosis could cause the infection to spread. Thus, it is still important for clinicians to be able to diagnose smallpox. The CDC has developed an online tool (http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/diagnosis/evalposter.asp) to help clinicians assess the likelihood that a rash is due to smallpox.
What specialists treat smallpox?
If smallpox is considered as a possible diagnosis for any patient, public-health authorities should be notified immediately and their instructions on the protective measures for medical caregivers and others should be followed carefully. They can help determine if additional testing is warranted. Material from blisters, throat swabs, and blood samples may be tested for the presence of variola DNA or cultured. These tests are done at the CDC and require prior authorization. The person(s) obtaining the specimens should have a recent smallpox vaccination (within three years) or no contraindication to immediate vaccination. Infectious-disease specialists, emergency-medicine specialists, infection-control specialists, and experts who are trained in biological warfare are likely to be consulted. Other specialists like ophthalmologists may need to be consulted if complications develop.
What is the treatment for smallpox?
Treatment for smallpox is supportive, meaning that the patient should be kept hydrated, fever should be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a similar medication, and the patient should be closely monitoring to determine if there is a need for blood pressure support. Although there are no medications that have been proven to work against human infection, some medications have shown promise in the laboratory, including a derivative of the antiviral drug cidofovir (Vistide), its analogs and virus inhibitor ST-246. Also, intravenous vaccinia immunoglobulin (VIGIV) has been used in early acquired accidental contaminations of the eyes or mouth. If the patient is hospitalized, strict airborne and contact isolation procedures should be followed; the room should have negative air pressure and HEPA air filters.