Back to Top Skip to main content

Smallpox

DoD Smallpox Vaccination Program Resource Center

Smallpox Disease and Smallpox Vaccine information paper (includes updated guidance on avoiding contamination while drawing vaccine from the vial)

Questions and Answers about Smallpox and Smallpox Vaccine

SmallpoxSmallpox disease had a mortality rate of approximately 30 percent, and because of a successful vaccination program it was declared globally eradicated in 1980. Naturally occurring smallpox was highly contagious, and was transmitted from an infected person to a susceptible (unvaccinated) person by close contact with respiratory secretions and/or infected skin. When smallpox disease was circulating, the only known reservoir for the virus was humans.

Once infected, a person usually has no symptoms and is not contagious during the incubation period, which ranges from 7-17 days.  Symptoms then begin with high fever, headache, body aches and fatigue. This may last 2-4 days, and then the rash develops. The rash first appears on the oral mucosa, face, and forearms, then spreads to the trunk and legs. A person is most infectious during the first week of the rash and is no longer infectious after all scabs have separated, usually 3-4 weeks after onset.

There is currently one smallpox vaccine licensed in the United States, ACAM2000, and is given in a pre-event setting only to select, designated groups including certain members of the U.S. military. The smallpox vaccine is administered in a single dose by the percutaneous route (scarification) using 15 jabs with a stainless steel bifurcated needle that has been dipped into the reconstituted vaccine. A few days following successful administration of the vaccine, a lesion forms at the vaccination site. This lesion contains vaccinia virus capable of infecting other parts of your body or infecting others who come in contact with the vaccination site directly or anything that contains drainage from the lesion.  For this reason, all smallpox vaccinees are taught, and must practice, proper vaccination site and dressing care. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

You also may be interested in...

What You Need to Know About Smallpox Vaccine

Publication
7/25/2019

Smallpox is a contagious and infectious disease caused by the variola virus. Smallpox can be deadly; resulting in death for about 3 out of 10 unvaccinated individuals. Survivors are often left with scars on their bodies and their eyes, resulting in blindness.

Recommended Content:

Smallpox

Smallpox Vaccination Program Questions and Answers

Publication
4/5/2018

All Smallpox Vaccination Program questions and answers in downloadable pdf format.

Recommended Content:

Smallpox | Smallpox Vaccine-Associated Adverse Events

Smallpox Vaccine in Pregnancy

Publication
2/26/2016

The National Smallpox Vaccine in Pregnancy Registry was created to follow the pregnancy outcomes of women who were exposed to the smallpox vaccine during pregnancy.

Recommended Content:

Smallpox | Women's Health

Smallpox Vaccine Administration Competency Assessment File

Publication
7/2/2014

Recommended Content:

Smallpox | Smallpox Vaccine-Associated Adverse Events

Smallpox Vaccine Reconstitution Competency Assessment File

Publication
7/2/2014

Recommended Content:

Smallpox | Smallpox Vaccine-Associated Adverse Events

Smallpox Vaccine Exemption Codes

Publication
12/18/2002

Military Medical Exemption Codes for Smallpox (Vaccinia) Vaccination in a Non-Emergency Situation

Recommended Content:

Smallpox
<< < 1 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 6 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.