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Smallpox: Symptoms, Stages and Brief History

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Smallpox was a pandemic that affected many people in different periods of time. It has only recently been officially eradicated. It is a terrible disease and millions have lost their lives to it.

What is smallpox? Smallpox is a disease that comes from a virus called Variola. Variola is not smallpox, it is the virus that gives you smallpox. The Variola virus comes from the family of the orthopoxvirus. The Variola virus spreads by face to face contact; for example, someone coughs or sneezes on you.

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Where did smallpox originate? The farthest back in time humans have traced smallpox is in Egyptian mummies thousands of years ago. Scientists that studied the body of Pharaoh Ramses V found smallpox markings on his face and on his body. Many of the scientists believe that this is what killed pharaoh Ramses V. The first known smallpox breakout was in an ancient Egyptian war over 3,000 years ago. Back then people did not have a lot of medical technology that we have today and could not do a lot about it.

What are some common symptoms that you get when you have smallpox? There are many different symptoms in smallpox. The most common ones are high fevers, rashes, scabs, and pustules(small blisters or bumps). Pustules are the most commonly known symptoms of smallpox, the little bumps are filled with liquids like pus. When you catch a severe case of smallpox the pustules will start to form all over your body before they turn into scabs and fall off. High fevers are another very common symptom, the normal temperature for a fever if someone has smallpox is 101 degrees Fahrenheit. After a while, the pustules start to scab over. Eventually, the scabs will fall off and leave many little divots or craters in the skin.

Smallpox will either kill you or make you suffer for a very long period of time before you are okay. The first stage in smallpox is called the incubation stage, the incubation stage can last 7-19 days. This stage is when the virus is in your body but you have no symptoms and you are probably okay. When you are in the incubation stage, smallpox is not contagious. The next stage lasts about 2-4 days. At this time smallpox is only sometimes contagious. People are starting to get high fevers and headaches and vomiting.

The next stage lasts about 4 days and this is probably the most contagious stage. At this point small little red bumps start to appear on the victim’s tongue, when those bumps break open they send the sickness all throughout the body. After the bumps on the tongue break open a rash starts to appear, this rash spreads all over the body in about 24 hours. Skin sores that are filled with very thick fluid and have a little dent in the middle start to appear. When the sores appear the victim’s fever goes up.

The next stage lasts about 10 days and is also very contagious. At this point, the sores start to turn into pustules(blisters that are filled with liquid). After a couple of days, most of the pustules start to scab over.

The next stage lasts about 6 days, this stage is also contagious. At this point, the scabs start to fall off. When the scabs fall off they leave small scars on the skin that never go away. The last stage starts when all the scabs have fallen off, at this point the victim is not contagious.

Smallpox has a lot of history. In the early 16th century, a Spaniard named Hernan Cortez conquered the Aztec empire. He was very outnumbered but he did not have to have a lot of men to take over the Aztecs. When Cortez and his men sailed over they brought many sicknesses with them. One of them was smallpox. Nearly 25% of the Aztec empire is thought to have died from smallpox. Smallpox also stuck American soldiers in the revolutionary war. But unlike the Aztecs, the American soldiers had a type of cure. They would make a cut in the arm of a soldier who had not caught it yet, then they would take a scab of a soldier with a mild case and put it on the healthy ones cut. This would make the healthy soldier immune to smallpox.

The complete death toll of smallpox is over 300,000,000 just in the 20th century. One-third of the people who get infected die. No one will ever completely understand smallpox. My main source of research for this project was https://www.cdc.gov/.

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