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Smallpox

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Smallpox is a disfiguring and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the Variola major virus. Before smallpox was eradicated, there were two forms of the disease worldwide: Variola major, the deadly disease, and Variola minor, a much milder form. According to some health experts, over the centuries smallpox was responsible for more deaths than all other infectious diseases combined.

The last naturally occurring case of smallpox was reported in 1977. In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been eradicated. Currently, there is no evidence of naturally occurring smallpox transmission anywhere in the world. Although a worldwide immunization program eradicated smallpox disease decades ago, small quantities of smallpox virus officially still exist in two research laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Russia.

Understanding Smallpox

Last Updated August 20, 2008

Last Reviewed August 20, 2008