Medical Definition of Variola

Variola: Smallpox, a highly contagious and frequently fatal viral disease characterized by a biphasic (double-humped) fever and a distinctive skin rash that (if the patient survived) left pock marks in its wake. The English physician Edward Jenner (1749-1823) exploited the fact that cowpox created immunity to smallpox and successfully developed an attenuated (weakened) virus vaccine for smallpox. Thanks to vaccination, smallpox has been eradicated. It was so named because the pocks were small and the disease was seen as less than the "great pox" (syphilis).

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018