Smallpox is a contagious, disfiguring and often deadly disease that has affected humans for thousands of years. Naturally occurring smallpox was eradicated worldwide by 1980 — the result of an unprecedented global immunization campaign.
Stockpiles of smallpox virus have been kept for research purposes. This has led to concerns that smallpox could someday be used as a biological warfare agent.
There's no treatment or cure for smallpox. A vaccine can prevent smallpox, but the risk of the vaccine's side effects is too high to currently justify routine vaccination for people at low risk of exposure to the smallpox virus.
Aug. 10, 2011
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