Search Button
Divider Home Button

Fact sheets menu image

Smallpox

What is smallpox?
Where is smallpox found?
What are the symptoms of smallpox?
How is smallpox spread?
How can I keep from getting smallpox?
If I’ve been exposed to smallpox, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
How serious is the disease?
Where can I get more information on smallpox?

What is smallpox?
Smallpox is a serious, contagious and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination.

The pox part of smallpox is derived from the Latin word for “spotted” and refers to the raised bumps that appear on the face and body of an infected person.

Where is smallpox found?
The disease is now eradicated after a successful worldwide vaccination program. The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949. The last naturally occurring case in the world was in Somalia in 1977.

What are the symptoms of smallpox?

How is smallpox spread?
The disease can be spread by direct and prolonged face-to-face contact with an infected person. It can also be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects.

How can I keep from getting smallpox?A woman gets a smallpox vaccine
The chances of getting smallpox are extremely low, due to the fact that the disease is eradicated. However, the possibility that the diseases may be used as a biological weapon exists, and therefore, the U.S. government is taking precautions for dealing with an outbreak.

If I’ve been exposed to smallpox, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
The initial symptoms of smallpox can occur between seven and 17 days after exposure.

The vaccine for smallpox is effective in preventing or lessening the severity of the illness if the vaccine is given within three days of exposure.

How serious is the disease?
Smallpox is very serious and can lead to death in about 30 percent of cases.

Where can I get more information on smallpox?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or call the Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention