Public Health (Emergency Preparedness) - Smallpox

Comal County Public Health (CCPH) is guided by a vision: a safe and healthy Comal County. Multidisciplinary professionals work together to achieve this focal mission. Currently, there are twelve full-time employees and one part-time team-member creating a team that delivers public health-focused services such as immunizations, epidemiology and surveillance, emergency preparedness, education, and some clinic services. Our staff works under the guidance and direction of the Comal County Medical Authority.

Gwen Mills:
Director

Sherry Lockley
Office Manager

 

 

 

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.

There are two clinical forms of smallpox. Variola major is the severe and most common form of smallpox, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. There are four types of variola major smallpox: ordinary (the most frequent type, accounting for 90% or more of cases); modified (mild and occurring in previously vaccinated persons); flat; and hemorrhagic (both rare and very severe).

Historically, variola major has an overall fatality rate of about 30%; however, flat and hemorrhagic smallpox usually are fatal.Variola minor is a less common presentation of smallpox, and a much less severe disease, with death rates historically of 1% or less.p

Smallpox Disease
Incubation Period
(Duration: 7 to 17 days)
Not contagious
Exposure to the virus is followed by an incubation period during which people do not have any symptoms and may feel fine. This incubation period averages about 12 to 14 days but can range from 7 to 17 days. During this time, people are not contagious.
Initial Symptoms (Prodrome)
(Duration: 2 to 4 days)
Sometimes contagious*
The first symptoms of smallpox include fever, malaise, head and body aches, and sometimes vomiting. The fever is usually high, in the range of 101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. At this time, people are usually too sick to carry on their normal activities. This is called the prodrome phase and may last for 2 to 4 days.
Early Rash
(Duration: about 4 days)
Most contagious
Rash distribution:
Rash Distribution
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A rash emerges first as small red spots on the tongue and in the mouth.

These spots develop into sores that break open and spread large amounts of the virus into the mouth and throat. At this time, the person becomes most contagious.

Around the time the sores in the mouth break down, a rash appears on the skin, starting on the face and spreading to the arms and legs and then to the hands and feet. Usually the rash spreads to all parts of the body within 24 hours. As the rash appears, the fever usually falls and the person may start to feel better.

By the third day of the rash, the rash becomes raised bumps.

By the fourth day, the bumps fill with a thick, opaque fluid and often have a depression in the center that looks like a bellybutton. (This is a major distinguishing characteristic of smallpox.)

Fever often will rise again at this time and remain high until scabs form over the bumps.

Pustular Rash
(Duration: about 5 days)
Contagious

The bumps become pustules—sharply raised, usually round and firm to the touch as if there’s a small round object under the skin. People often say the bumps feel like BB pellets embedded in the skin.
Pustules and Scabs
(Duration: about 5 days)
Contagious

The pustules begin to form a crust and then scab.

By the end of the second week after the rash appears, most of the sores have scabbed over.

Resolving Scabs
(Duration: about 6 days)
Contagious
The scabs begin to fall off, leaving marks on the skin that eventually become pitted scars. Most scabs will have fallen off three weeks after the rash appears.

The person is contagious to others until all of the scabs have fallen off.

Scabs resolved
Not contagious
 
Scabs have fallen off. Person is no longer contagious.

* Smallpox may be contagious during the prodrome phase, but is most infectious during the first 7 to 10 days following rash onset.