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Biology. Smallpox: The Deadly Virus Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2021


One of the most deadly disease during the 15th century; Smallpox is a product of two viruses; Variola Major and Variola Minor. This name came about in order to distinguish it from the great pox disease. This disease happens in the blood vessels of the skin, mouth and throat. This paper would go on to prove why this disease was considered and continues to be considered such a deadly disease.

History od disease

During the 20th century, according to estimated figures it was found that over 300-500 million people died as a result of this disease. This disease’s origin is believed be that of around 10,000 BC. During the 18th century alone; this disease resulted in the deaths of around 40,000 Europeans. Therefore, through further evidence it would be shown that how this diseases came about; the causes, how it resulted in such a widespread termination and eventually; why it continues to be considered so deadly.

Smallpox resurfaced during the year 1967 and resulted in the death of over 2 million people. The causes behind this deadly virus are the contraction of a virus called variola virus and it affects mostly babies’ and children. Poxviruses are considered to unique amongst viruses as they as instead of getting formed in the nucleus, they replicate in the cytoplasm of the cell.

The variola disease is known to only affect human beings. The cause behind the widespread termination of this disease can be attributed to the fact that this disease transmits itself through inhalation of airborne variola disease and is usually transmitted through prolonged face to face contact with another individual who has already been infected by this virus. This virus can be known to transmit itself through the course of the illness itself, but was mostly spread through the first week of the rash, when the skin lesions are known to be intact.

This disease is considered highly contagious and proven to be deadly but it generally spread more slowly and even less extensively than other viral disease as a result of the need to have face to face contact. The amount of infection is also dependant upon the duration of the infection. In moderate areas; the amount of smallpox cases were recorded the highest during the winter season while in the more tropical regions; this disease was rampant during throughout the year.

The two clinical forms of smallpox; Variola major and Variola minor- variola major is considered to be a more common form of smallpox and in fact even more a severe form of the virus. The rapidity with which this virus spreads is a testimony to the fact that this disease is quite a lethal one. Within a brief period f 24-36 hours; this disease can take on a number of different forms.

In ninety percent of the smallpox cases; the affected suffers from an ordinary type of attack. The symptoms of such a sickness are quite alarming indeed; influenza, cold feet, prostration, malaise, headache, nausea etc. The preemptive stage lasts for 2 to four days while the more serious stage; appear within twelve to fifteen days, the skin lesions rapidly enlarge and rupture causing large amounts of virus into the saliva. Such a torturous description of the suffering amplifies the paper’s argument of how dangerous this disease has proven to be for mankind.

The ordinary cases of this virus generally produce a discrete rash, in which the affecter’s pustules stand out on the skin separately. The most affected area happens to be that of the face; even denser than the trunk and in majority of the cases the palms and feet are also affected badly.

Those patients who suffer from confluent smallpox even remain ill for a long period after the scabs have disappeared proving the case point of the fatality of this disease. In certain cases; the case fatality rate of confluent smallpox was around a 62%; a pretty high number for any disease’s reoccurrence.

Another type of small pox; flat is always considered to be fatal highlighting the seriousness attached with this disease. Hemorrhagic smallpox used to occur in 3 to 25 percent of the fatal cases adding strength to the fact that smallpox is one of the most fatal diseases to ever have affected the mankind race.

The overall case-fatality ratio was that of around thirty percent but in the ordinary confluent cases the ratio rose to fifty –seventy percent – pretty intimidating figures for a disease whose main victims were children and babies.

Hemorrhagic and flat types of smallpox were considered to be the most fatal as the fatality rates were around ninety percent and even 100 percent in the case of hemorrhagic smallpox. In the fatal cases of smallpox; death usually occurred between ten to fifteen days of contracting the illness. A quite brief period of a death to occur as a result of contracting a virus illness showing that the chances of survival were quite low-the infected organs were the significant parts of the body hence, the early death.

In the early hemorrhagic cases that were recorded, death happened as a rapidly as within a span of six days. The complications arising from this virus were tantamount; as the affected area was the respiratory system causing fatal pneumonia in most of the cases. Hemorrhagic smallpox was known to cause subconjunctival and retinal hemorrhages.

Proving the fact, that not did this disease affect in sever forms but in fact it’s after effects were also quite sever.

The treatment for this virus was a smallpox vaccination within three days of contracting the illness and that can have a bearing on the reduction of the illness. Vaccination after seven days can also help to modify the spread of the virus. Primary support measures for the treatment of this virus included fluid therapy, infection control, wound care etc. For the most severe of cases such as hemorrhagic cases the treatment procedure included shock treatment and fluid therapy.

While no drug usage was and has been approved, the antiviral treatments resulted in a proper treatment for this virus which has had such a devastating effect on mankind. The way anthrax has been used as means of biological warfare for the present times; this smallpox virus was used to be used by the British during the French h and Indian wars in the 18th century. The Soviet Union took a step further by constructing a smallpox weapons factory during the 1950s; showing the strength of this virus.

The above arguments and facts have proven the reason for this disease to be considered such a lethal one amongst all the diseases contracted by mankind today.

Works Cited

Ryan KJ, Ray CG (editors). “Sherris Medical Microbiology” 4th ed., McGraw Hill, 525–8, 2004.

Barquet N, Domingo P. “Smallpox: the triumph over the most terrible of the ministers of death”. Ann. Intern. Med. 127 (8 Pt 1): 635–42. PMID 9341063, Web.

Jezek Z, Hardjotanojo W, Rangaraj AG.”Facial scarring after varicella. A comparison with variola major and variola minor”. Am. J. Epidemiol. 114 (6): 798–803. 1981.

Fenner, Frank “Smallpox and Its Eradication (History of International Public Health”. Geneva: World Health Organization. 1998.

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