Smallpox is a very dangerous disease cause by a filterable virus. It is rarely seen today, thanks to the vaccination introduced by Jenner many years ago. In past generations smallpox was one of the greatest scourges of the human race, killing of hundreds of thousands of people every year. Since the advent of vaccination doctors rarely see the disease any more. But this is no reason to let down our guard. By the fourth or fifth month of life, all infants should be vaccinated against smallpox. This should be done sooner if there is any suspicion against smallpox should be repeated every five years for the rest of a person’s life.
Smallpox begins with a heavy chill followed by a high fever, and great prostration similar to a bad attack of influenza. Persistent vomiting and even convulsion are common in small children. The rash usually appears on the third day and it first seen on the forehand, temples, and around the mouth, later spreading to the scalp, neck, arms, hands, and all parts of the body. In the next stage small abscess or pustules develop in the skin under the rash, and the patient has a high fever and suffer from great weakness. This continues for eight to ten days. Healing is slow, and the patient feels worn out and exhausted for weeks. Death is common in young children exposed to smallpox. Adult who have been vaccinated many years before may still develop a milder form of disease.
Prevention is most important. Be sure all the members of the family are vaccinated against smallpox. This should be repeated at least every five years, and more often in areas where smallpox is known to exist. Patient suffering from smallpox need good nursing, preferably in a hospital. Penicillin and other antibiotics are useful in treating the pus-filled lesions of the skins. Itching may be controlled by the use of calamine and other lotions mentioned on “chicken pox” . The eyes should be irrigated two or three times a day to remove surplus secretion. As in all types of high fever, the patient should be given plenty of fluids and fresh fruit juices. Smallpox is such a serious disease no family should be without adequate protection through vaccination.