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Smallpox is a disease caused by the Variola major virus. Some experts say that over the centuries it has killed more people than all other infectious diseases combined. Worldwide immunization stopped the spread of smallpox three decades ago. The last case was reported in 1977. Two research labs still house small amounts of the virus. Experts fear bioterrorists could use the virus to spread disease.

The US stopped routine smallpox vaccinations in 1972. Military and other high-risk groups continue to get the vaccine. The US has increased its supply of the vaccine in recent years. The vaccine makes some people sick, so doctors save it for those at highest risk of disease. (Source: NIH)

Generally, direct and fairly prolonged face-to-face contact is required to spread smallpox from one person to another. Smallpox also can be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing. Rarely, smallpox has been spread by virus carried in the air in enclosed settings such as buildings, buses, and trains. Humans are the only natural hosts of variola. Smallpox is not known to be transmitted by insects or animals.

A person with smallpox is sometimes contagious with onset of fever (prodrome phase), but the person becomes most contagious with the onset of rash. At this stage the infected person is usually very sick and not able to move around in the community. The infected person is contagious until the last smallpox scab falls off. (Source: CDC)

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Smallpox The CDC Smallpox Home Page.
Smallpox Basics Information from the CDC.
Questions and Answers About Smallpox Disease Information from the CDC.
Smallpox: References Various smallpox references by category.
Smallpox Information from the WHO.
Smallpox The latest news on Smallpox from CIDRAP.
Vaccine Overview From the CDC.
Smallpox General information from MedlinePlus.

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UN decision on smallpox put off A UN decision about whether to destroy existing samples of smallpox held in Russian and U.S. labs has been postponed for another three years, officials said.
How Tiny Errors in Africa Led to a Global Triumph When I helped run a measles immunization program in West Africa in the 1960s, I learned that in global health small things can spell the difference between a major success and a colossal failure.
Milestones in the eradication of smallpox With officials debating whether to destroy the remaining specimens of the pathogen, here is a look at notable dates in smallpox history...
Curbs On Pathogens Pose Dilemma For Scientists The fate of smallpox is once again on the agenda of the World Health Organization, which is considering whether to destroy the last known samples of the deadly virus, currently held in labs in the US and Russia.
Expert says US should agree to destroy smallpox virus stocks Given the potential for a bitter diplomatic battle at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May, an expert on smallpox-related policy is recommending that the United States agree to the destruction of the remaining stocks of smallpox virus—or at least be prepared to destroy all but a remnant of them.
National Emergency Response Programs for Dental Health Care Professionals Members of the established public health systemsand medical community must understand that, in medical surgeevents, members of the dental profession and other non-traditionaldisaster health care personnel are an additional source of assistancein response activities.
The smallpox vaccine

An update for oral health care professionals

A heightened awareness of the potential for bioterroristattacks in the United States has led to the expansion of thenation's supply of smallpox vaccine and the institutionof procedures to distribute this vaccine in the unlikely eventof a release of this potentially deadly agent.
Duck and cover

A prudent defense against smallpox

There are some basic measures that we can take now to protectourselves and our patients.
Bioterrorism and catastrophe response A quick-reference guide to resources.
Dentistry's Role in Responding to Bioterrorism and Other Catastrophic Events September 11, 2001 taught Americans that acts of international terrorism can happen here and are more than likely to happen again. To counter terrorism a federal Department of Homeland Security has been established, complemented by new or expanded programs at federal, state, and local levels aimed at safeguarding the country and saving lives. Toward those ends the call has gone out to America's health professionals to join the nation's biodefense efforts. Not only can health professionals help educate the public, they can contribute a broad range of technical skills and practical experience to terrorism response plans that will enable the country to meet an imminent threat or an overt catastrophe.

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