Smallpox is transmitted by the orthopoxvirus variola or alastrim virus.

The Smallpox Virus often caused the earlier Infectious disease smallpox (synonym: Leaves, variola), which years ago often led to complications and in serious cases even to death led. Due to the extremely high risk of infection, the smallpox viruses used to be the trigger for several Epidemics.

root cause

A Infection with the smallpox virus is now extremely unlikely and especially in developed countries almost impossible because of the smallpox virus Completely eradicated since 1980 and only remnants can be found in special laboratories.

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The Smallpox virus comes from the family of Poxviridae and is divided into two subgroups. For one thing, there is Orthopoxvirus and on the other hand there is that Parapox virus. Is interesting to humans only the orthopox virusas this is the only cause of the dangerous smallpox disease.

It is important that the Orthopoxvirus two different forms smallpox infection because the virus has two subtypes.

  1. Orthopoxvirus variola is the first subtype, this virus causes the real smallpoxwhich by a high risk of infection and the classic smallpox picture.
  2. Orthopoxvirus alastrim however, causes the harmless white smallpox.

The Cause of smallpox infection is usually quite simple: If a patient comes into contact with an already infected patient, so the virus is transmitted and then causes disease in man.

A patient can look to infect different and above all very mundane ways (infect). On the one hand via the so-called Smear infection. Here it is enough if the virus is still by the hand of an infected patient "sticks". If you give this patient the hand, the virus can get into the body and cause the infectious disease there. It is important here that the patient who is transmitting the virus not necessarily infected externally have to be.

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Another cause of transmission of the smallpox virus can be, for example Doorknob or one Handrail in the bus be. Here too the virus "glue“If an infected patient has previously touched this area. The smear infection shows why the virus is so spread extremely quickly can and why it is common in an outbreak too Epidemics in the affected area comes.

Another way of transmission is transmission through Droplet infection. Here patient A, who is infected, can be patient B cough. Through the small droplets which are set free and contain many virus particles, it is very likely that patient B will also become infected.

These two modes of transmission are usually the cause of an infection with the smallpox virus.

It is important to know that you can not the same day after coming into direct or indirect contact with a smallpox patient, becomes ill. The smallpox virus is called one Incubation period of 7-19 days. This means it can take around 7-19 days for the virus to spread increased so much in the bodythat there is an infection. Because initially the body tries to come to terms with the virus itself and this to fight. This is why it takes a while before the disease actually breaks out. During this time, which is called the incubation period, there one no symptoms yet but shows nevertheless carrier of the virus, you can already infect other patients.

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this is that dangerous at the smallpox virus: Imagine a manager who is infected with the smallpox virus but does not yet know this because he is not yet showing any symptoms. This manager shakes hands with 20 people every day and thus also infects them. These 20 people, in turn, can infect other people because they too do not show any symptoms. This example shows how quickly it became an epidemic could come. That is why it is particularly important on the one hand hand-wash and disinfect regularly to pay attention.

Since smallpox in Germany and the rest of the world, however extinct are, it is actually not possible, that a patient becomes infected with the smallpox virus, since the remaining stocks of smallpox viruses are safely stored in special laboratories.


To the Diagnosing smallpox infection First of all, it is important that the doctor follow up the patient possible stays abroad asked if there should be another outbreak of a smallpox epidemic in another country.

Since patients usually only go to the doctor when the show the first optical signs, that is often enough for the doctor clinical picture to detect smallpox infection. The patient knows typical complexion on, in addition to that he has fever and feels uncomfortable.

There is also one Rapid testwhere the virus viewed under the microscope. Since this is the greatest virus is what has been discovered so far, it is very easy to spot.

Frequency distribution

Smallpox is one extinct virus infection and thus find each other no patients with an active smallpox infection. Should a patient nevertheless show characteristic smallpox symptoms, he must report the case to the Robert Koch Institute and then to a Isolation ward be housed around the To avoid an outbreak of an epidemic.

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Show patients with smallpox infection characteristic symptoms on.

Shortly after infection there are more general symptoms such as:

  • Body aches
  • fever
  • Throat discomfort With Swelling and Inflammation (Throat enanthemum).
  • the patient feels weak and ill
  • it can too Back pain come.

First there is also one skin rashwhich is the whole body can make this noticeable however disappears after a short time. That too Fever typically subsides for a short timeso that the patient can get the feeling to be fully recoveredalthough this early stage is the most infectious and even the patient's clothing can infect others.

But then it comes to one typical rashwhich first mainly on the face occurs. Larger and larger ones are formed smaller papules. This is Elevations of the skin, which with a Virus-containing liquid filled and can burst open by itching or scratching and then spreading the virus everywhere.

With the papules also occur again and again Fever bouts on, the fever then increases continuously, taking it again and again Delusions or Hallucinations can come. It can also accompany the fever chills come.

The papules can grow distribute all over the body, the head, hands and feet being most affected, and turn into pustules after a while. A pustule differs from a papule in that the papule still contains virus-containing fluid, while the pustule with pus is filled. The pustules can also burst and empty their purulent contents. After emptying there is a Scabbing and one Encrustation, in addition, the pustules begin to flatten.

This last stage of pustules is particularly difficult for the patient, since it involves a tremendous itching connected, which leads to the fact that the patient constantly tries to scratch himself and thus open the pustules. This can then, similar to a patient with particularly worse acnelead to scars. In this case one speaks of the characteristic Smallpox scars.

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Depending on, with what subgroup of the virus the patient has become infected mild course of the disease or severe consequences.


A appropriate therapy against a smallpox infection there is not any, you can at most try that Alleviate the patient's symptoms and additionally fiber-lowering agents or pain reliever drugs to administer.

If the patient notices the infection in timeso he will isolated so as not to infect other patients, the Live vaccine be injected, which often leads to a milder or no outbreak at all the disease leads.


There is one for smallpox vaccination with the Live vaccinia virus vaccine, where this is a weakened form of the cowpox virus acts.

Because it too bad vaccination complications can come, for example a Suppuration of the brain (Encephalitis), a smallpox vaccination should only be carried out if a justified suspicion present.

So the vaccination belongs not to the standard vaccinations and should too not be prescribed without justified suspicion!

Forecast and consequences

A Smallpox infection is a serious disease. Depending on the severity of the infection, the course can be mild for the patient just retains the scarshowever, it can too severe consequences For example, due to the smallpox infection, a patient may:

  • go blind for life
  • it can too Paralysis
  • Brain damage
  • deafness


Also the mortality rate (Lethality) is very high depending on the severity and can range between 10-90% lie.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has been trying the world for several years keep smallpox-free. In Germany this is since 1972 the case. The last smallpox case occurred in Hanover in 1972, and since then it has been through the increasing hygiene as well as the Vaccinations, the Eradicate disease.

Although the world was declared smallpox-free in 1980, there are still camps some viruses in special laboratories and many countries hold large quantities Vaccines in stock, if there is a new outbreak of smallpox.

Particular fear applies here to the assumption that in the event of an attack, Smallpox virus as a weapon could begin because an epidemic could quickly kill many human lives.

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