Smallpox (cont.)

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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 ( 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


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

Last Editorial Review: 1/16/2014

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