What is smallpox?

Leigh Vinocur, MD
Emergency Medicine
The Variola virus (that causes smallpox) only infects humans and is spread by human-to-human contact, and is especially damaging to children and pregnant women. Smallpox disease has a high mortality rate, killing about 1/3 or 30% of people infected with the Variola virus.  The virus is inhaled; once in the lungs, it multiplies and spreads via the bloodstream to the skin, intestines, kidneys and brain.

Smallpox is a disease caused by the variola virus. Humans began being affected by these microbes thousands of years ago. The most common form of the disease boasts a 30 percent mortality rate.

Continue Learning about Smallpox

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