Variola – The Deadliest Contamination

Variola is another name of much-known disease smallpox. Also the virus that causes this highly infectious disease is known as variola. Nevertheless, this disease has now become a history for entire human nations. It used to be a devastating epidemic in the eighteenth century.

In 1980 it has been officially declared by World Health Assembly to be completely exterminated from the earth. But after September and October, 2001, the fear of using this virus as a biological weapon has once again made an upheaval.

About the Virus

The virus that causes smallpox is of two categories, namely variola major and minor. It belongs to the family of poxvirijae with subfamily of orthopox. The nature of this virus is highly contagious and they spread in direct face-to-face contact with an affected person.

Even the body fluids, bed or pillow, and clothing of the infected person are enough to contaminate a healthy person. Air contamination within enclosed areas like buses, rooms, or buildings is yet unheard. Similarly, it is not found in animals, which means humans are the sole hosts of this virus.

Fatality rate of variola major is more significant than minor which has been found to be around 1 to 2% whereas the former one has almost 30 to 35% fatality rate.

Common Signs of Variola

Smallpox could be identified by some very common and typical symptoms. The symptoms generally start to appear after 10 to 14 days of the exposure. Within 7 to 17 hours of the contamination, there is acute fever, chill, muscle ache, vomiting, and headache. These signs are accompanied by sever flushing of the skin. Within 3 or 4 days, the initial onset of it begins usually at the facial region.

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But within the third or fourth day it generally spreads onto the lower limbs and the trunk. Variola shows up as small macules which grow up and turn into solid papules and in later stage they transform into pustular lesions. Usually these pustules start forming crusts within 8 or 9 days and gradually the scabs fall off the body once they completely dry up.

Difference between Variola and Chicken Pox

It is quite difficult to differentiate smallpox from chicken pox since their indications are much alike. However, in case of smallpox the symptoms are more severe than chicken pox.

The initial symptoms like fever, muscle pain, etc. are even more intense in case of smallpox, while the skin rashes usually appear on the covered areas of the body in case of smallpox. Smallpox lesions are more deep seated, more firm, and the vesicles are relatively harder to break than chicken pox.

Preventive Measures for Variola

variolaVaccine is the only successful weapon to fight this deadly disease successfully. A smallpox vaccine is made of a virus called vaccinia. Vaccinia is a kind of virus which is much like smallpox.

It is responsible for boosting up the body’s immunity against smallpox virus so that a human body could develop and fight this deadly disease with its own self-defense mechanism. Besides, the positive aspect of vaccinia is that it never causes smallpox since it is not a smallpox virus by origin. Routine vaccination of civilians was in practice in many countries till early 1970s.

The vaccine is ideally given as a preventive step before a person is actually exposed to this virus. And in this procedure it has successfully provided protection from variola to 95% people. Complete protection is also possible if the vaccine is given within 3 days of exposure. However, the severity of the disease could also be suppressed and prevented to a considerable extent if vaccination is done within 4 to 7 days of contamination.

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However due to some adverse impacts of this procedure, this type of vaccination has been withdrawn in different parts of the world, especially in the United States.

Common Side Effects Associated With Vaccinia

Even though it has introduced a ground breaking and innovative preventive measure against variola, the vaccinia vaccination itself failed to prove itself to be free of side effects. Minor side effects are often marked by the growth and development of a papule at the region of the skin where the vaccination is done.

The papule grows and turns into a pustule and gradually dries up and diminishes completely. Fever is another common symptom of side effects associated with vaccinia. Nevertheless, moderate and even severe side effects are also not quite uncommon to appear. These side effects often include eczema vaccinatum, generalized vaccinia, progressive vaccinia, and postvaccinal encephalitis.

Chances of contamination also prevail from a recently vaccinated person to a nonvaccinated one who is susceptible to vaccinia. Besides, variola vaccine or vaccinia is also not recommended for pregnant women, infants or children, people who had once been vaccinated, or who have allergic reactions to vaccine components and HIV infected people.

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