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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.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.