Smallpox

  • Medical Author:
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What is the prognosis for smallpox, and what are complications of smallpox?

Approximately one-third of people with smallpox died. Those who survived bore the scars of the disease for life. If the eye was infected, blindness was common. In the 19th century, smallpox was the leading cause of childhood blindness. It is possible that experimental medications will decrease complications and mortality rates, but this cannot be tested since human disease no longer exists. However, if the disease was reintroduced to humans (for example, by bioterrorists or other individuals), some investigators suggest the death rate may exceed one-third of the population and debilitate and scar many of those people that survive the disease.

Where can people find more information on smallpox?

The CDC web site (http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/index.asp) is an excellent source of information on smallpox. It provides comprehensive information on the disease and the vaccine.

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCE:

McFadden, G. "Killing a Killer: What Next for Smallpox?" PLoS Pathog 6.1 Jan. 29, 2010: e1000727.

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