There is no known specific treatment for smallpox, although research is being carried out in an attempt to create a medication capable of killing the virus. Control of fever, prevention of dehydration, good wound care, and antibiotics for any secondary infection caused by bacteria are important measures for the smallpox patient.
If a case of smallpox were diagnosed, that person would be isolated from other people immediately, and all people that had been in contact with that person would be isolated, vaccinated, and watched closely for signs of the disease. Vaccine that is given within 4 days of exposure to the virus may prevent or greatly reduce the symptoms of the disease.
Currently, smallpox vaccine is approved for use only with those people who are at special risk for the disease. Laboratory workers working with the virus are also vaccinated. If an epidemic were to occur, widespread vaccination could take place, with priorities as recommended by the government.
The vaccination against smallpox contains the cowpox (vaccinia) virus, not the smallpox virus. The vaccinia virus, which is related to the smallpox virus, allows the production of antibodies against the smallpox virus by our body's defense (immune) system. The vaccine is very safe, and was routinely given to the general population before 1972. Certain people are at higher risk for adverse reactions to the vaccine – most reactions are mild, but some are severe. They include people with eczema or other skin conditions, pregnant women, and persons with circumstances that result in weakened immune systems, for instance those with cancers like leukemia and lymphoma and people who have had solid organ transplants.
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