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What's the treatment for smallpox?

Unlike bacterial infections such as anthrax, smallpox does not respond to antibiotics. There is currently no cure for smallpox - although the vaccine can sometimes help those recently exposed. Scientists continue to study antiviral agents to find one that can fight smallpox, but there is no proven treatment yet. For people suffering from full-blown smallpox, "supportive

therapy" - intravenous fluids, medicines to control fever or pain, and antibiotics for any secondary bacterial infections - is the best-known course of action.

There is no proven treatment for smallpox, but research to evaluate new antiviral agents is ongoing. Patients with smallpox can benefit from supportive therapy such as intravenous fluids, medicine to control fever or pain and antibiotics for any secondary bacterial infections that may occur. Vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) can be used primarily to treat complications of smallpox vaccination. VIG could also be offered to persons exposed to smallpox as a prophylaxis. However, VIG must be given before their lesions began to develop, and it is most effective when given with smallpox vaccination.

If the smallpox vaccination is given within 1-4 days of exposure to the disease, it may prevent illness, or at least lessen the degree of illness associated with the disease. Treatment, once the disease symptoms have started, is limited. There is no agent that has been specifically made for treating smallpox. Sometimes antibiotics are given for secondary infections that may occur. Vaccinia immune globulin (antibodies against a disease similar to smallpox) may help shorten the disease.

If a diagnosis of smallpox were made, exposed persons would need to be isolated immediately. The isolation would include not just the person who contracted the disease, but all other face-to-face contacts with that person. These individuals would need the vaccine and need to be monitored. Emergency measures to protect a broader segment of the population would have to be implemented immediately, within the recommended guidelines from the CDC and other federal and local health agencies.

More information on smallpox

What is smallpox? - Smallpox is a highly contagious disease unique to humans caused by two virus variants called Variola major and Variola minor.
What are the symptoms of smallpox? - The initial symptoms of smallpox include the acute onset of fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting and severe muscle aches.
How is smallpox spread? - Smallpox is most often spread by the respiratory secretions of people with smallpox to people who have close face to face contact.
What causes smallpox? - Smallpox is caused by variola virus. Anyone exposed to the smallpox virus may get smallpox.
What's the treatment for smallpox? - There is currently no cure for smallpox - although the vaccine can sometimes help those recently exposed.
How can smallpox be prevented? - There is a vaccine to prevent smallpox. Getting smallpox vaccine before exposure will protect about 95 percent of people from getting smallpox.
What is smallpox vaccine? - Smallpox vaccine contains live vaccinia virus, a virus in the orthopoxvirus family and closely related to variola virus, the agent that causes smallpox. 
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005