By: Trey Marcantonio and Connor Graham

For this project we did a research project on smallpox. Smallpox is a disease that now is only known to exist in two laboratories, one in the U.S.A. and another in Russia. It may be fatal and shares some similarities with chickenpox. Sit back relax, and remember, ENJOY THE PROJECT!

Is smallpox contagious?

Smallpox is contagious. It is spread by close contact with the sores or respiratory droplets of a contaminated person. Contaminated bedding or clothing could also spread the disease. An example is when the settlers of America from Europe gave infected blankets to the Native Americans to kill them. A patient is infected until no scabs remain.

What happens when you have Smallpox?

Smallpox is caused by variola virus. The incubation period is about 12 days (range: 7 to 17 days) following exposure. Initial symptoms include high fever, fatigue, and head and back aches. A characteristic rash, most prominent on the face, arms, and legs, follows in 2-3 days. The rash starts with flat red lesions that evolve at the same rate. Lesions become pus-filled and begin to crust early in the second week. Scabs develop and then separate and fall off after about 3-4 weeks. Death occurs in up to 30% of cases.

Who discovered a cure for Smallpox?

For centuries, epidemics of smallpox affected people all over the globe, and the disease was often serious. But in 1796, an English doctor named Edward Jenner discovered a way to protect people from getting smallpox, and his experiments eventually led to the development of the first smallpox vaccine.

Treatment for Smallpox

There is no proven treatment for smallpox but research to evaluate new antiviral agents is ongoing. Patients with smallpox can benefit from supportive therapy (intravenous fluids, medicine to control fever or pain, etc.) and antibiotics for any secondary bacterial infections that occur.


Routine vaccination against smallpox ended in 1972. The level of immunity, if any, among persons who were vaccinated before 1972 is uncertain; therefore, these persons are assumed to be susceptible. However, the United Sates has an emergency supply of smallpox vaccine in case of an outbreak.

Fun Facts

Insects and animals do not transmit smallpox. If aerosolized smallpox were to be released, 90 percent of the virus would die within 24 hours. In Europe, smallpox is estimated to have claimed 60 million lives in the 18th century alone. In the 20th century, it killed some 300 million people globally.


Smallpox is caused by the variola virus. There are two forms of this virus. The more dangerous form, variola major, caused smallpox disease that was fatal for about 30% of people infected. A virus called variola minor caused a less deadly form of smallpox, with a fatality rate of about 1%.

Self Treatment

You can not prevent smallpox in any way other than getting a vaccine. However, you do not need need one because smallpox does not exist in public any more.