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Controlled, after 1796 and caused by Variola virus. Eradicated, after 1979, the first disease in which this has been achieved through vaccination, after Jenner, and large well-coordinated public health programmes particularly by Donald Henderson[1][2][3]. The last victim of infection in the wild was Ali Maalin (26 October, 1977 Variola minor, survived.) Two fatal cases occurred in Birmingham (England) in 1978 with a failure of containment in the laboratory which at that time was one of three known to contain samples and where research continued. It did not subsequently.[4]

Only two known repositories of the variola virus remain: Russian State Research Centre for Virology and Biotechnology, Novosibirsk in Siberia, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, USA. In 2014, 6 sealed but unaccounted vials of the virus were discovered in a National Institutes of Health laboratory in Maryland, USA.


Variola is derived from Latin "varius" ('various, variegated, also coming to mean "spotted, speckled"').

"Smallpox" refers to the condition, comparing it with the great pox (syphilis) and (the relatively trivial) chickenpox - see Pox.


Recognising Smallpox



WHO Smallpox identification card

Actually a mild case.

Distinguish from Chickenpox.


Use tecovirimat. This has never been used in anger in man, but should work well.


  • Prevent man being the biggest danger to man by making the re-engineering of the agent as a weapon as illegal as possible. Such engineering would unhappily be possible with todays technology, although rather dangerous.
  • The traditional vaccination is much more dangerous than tecovirimat prophylaxis which needs to be given within days of exposure (ideally 5).

See also