SynonymsVariola,[1] variola vera,[2] pox,[3] red plague[4]
Child with Smallpox Bangladesh.jpg
A child with smallpox in Bangladesh in 1973. Note the characteristic bumps filled with thick fluid and a depression or dimple in the center.
SpecialtyInfectious disease
ComplicationsScarring of the skin, blindness[6]
Usual onset1 to 3 weeks following exposure[5]
DurationAbout 4 weeks[5]
CausesVariola major, Variola minor (spread between people)[6][7]
Diagnostic methodBased on symptoms and confirmed by PCR[8]
Differential diagnosisChickenpox, impetigo, molluscum contagiosum, monkeypox[8]
PreventionSmallpox vaccine[9]
TreatmentSupportive care[10]
Prognosis30% risk of death[5]
FrequencyEradicated (last case in 1977)

Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, variola major and variola minor.[7] The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977 and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980.[10] The risk of death following contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies.[6][11] Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin and some were left blind.[6]

The initial symptoms of the disease included fever and vomiting.[5] This was followed by formation of sores in the mouth and a skin rash.[5] Over a number of days the skin rash turned into characteristic fluid filled bumps with a dent in the center.[5] The bumps then scabbed over and fell off leaving scars.[5] The disease used to spread between people or via contaminated objects.[6][12] Prevention was by the smallpox vaccine.[9] Once the disease had developed certain antiviral medication may have helped.[9]

The origin of smallpox is unknown.[13] The earliest evidence of the disease dates back to the 3rd century BCE in Egyptian mummies.[13] The disease historically occurred in outbreaks.[10] In 18th-century Europe it is estimated 400,000 people per year died from the disease, and one-third of the cases resulted in blindness.[10][14] These deaths included those of four reigning monarchs and a queen consort.[10][14] In the 20th century it is estimated that smallpox resulted in 300–500 million deaths.[12][15][16][17] As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year.[10]

Edward Jenner discovered in 1798 that vaccination could prevent smallpox.[10] In 1967, the WHO intensified efforts to eliminate the disease.[10] Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest in 2011.[18][19] The term "smallpox" was first used in Britain in the 15th century to distinguish the disease from syphilis, which was then known as the "great pox".[20] Other historical names for the disease include pox, speckled monster, and red plague.[3][4][20]


There were two clinical forms of smallpox. Variola major was the severe and most common form, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. Variola minor was a less common presentation, and a much less severe disease, with historical death rates of 1 percent or less.[21] Subclinical (asymptomatic) infections with variola virus were noted but were not common.[22] In addition, a form called variola sine eruptione (smallpox without rash) was seen generally in vaccinated persons. This form was marked by a fever that occurred after the usual incubation period and could be confirmed only by antibody studies or, rarely, by virus isolation.[22]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Pokke
Alemannisch: Pocken
العربية: جدري
aragonés: Picueta
অসমীয়া: বৰআই
asturianu: Viruela
Avañe'ẽ: Mbiru'a
Aymar aru: Chuqu usu
azərbaycanca: Təbii çiçək
Bân-lâm-gú: Thian-hoa
башҡортса: Ҡара сәсәк
беларуская: Натуральная воспа
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Натуральная воспа
български: Едра шарка
bosanski: Boginje
català: Verola
Cymraeg: Brech wen
dansk: Kopper
Deutsch: Pocken
ދިވެހިބަސް: ކަށި ވިދުރި
Diné bizaad: Łóódtsoh
eesti: Rõuged
Ελληνικά: Ευλογιά
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Varōl
español: Viruela
Esperanto: Variolo
euskara: Baztanga
فارسی: آبله
français: Variole
Gaeilge: Bolgach
Gàidhlig: Breac (tinneas)
galego: Varíola
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Thiên-fâ
한국어: 천연두
հայերեն: Բնական ծաղիկ
हिन्दी: चेचक
hrvatski: Boginje
Ilokano: Burtong
Bahasa Indonesia: Variola
Ирон: Хæбуз
íslenska: Bólusótt
italiano: Vaiolo
қазақша: Қара шешек
Kiswahili: Ndui
Кыргызча: Чечек
Latina: Variola
latviešu: Bakas
лезги: ЦIегьер
lietuvių: Raupai
македонски: Сипаници
മലയാളം: വസൂരി
मराठी: देवी (रोग)
مصرى: جدرى
Bahasa Melayu: Cacar
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Tiĕng-huă
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ကျောက်ကြီးရောဂါ
Nāhuatl: Mātlālzahuatl
Nederlands: Pokken
日本語: 天然痘
Nordfriisk: Pooken
norsk nynorsk: Koppar
occitan: Veròla
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ବସନ୍ତ
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Chechak
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਚੇਚਕ
پنجابی: چیچک
Patois: Sumaalpax
Piemontèis: Vairòle
português: Varíola
română: Variolă
Runa Simi: Muru unquy
саха тыла: Уоспа
ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ: ᱵᱚᱥᱚᱱ
संस्कृतम्: मसूरिका
sicilianu: Vaiolu
Simple English: Smallpox
slovenčina: Kiahne
slovenščina: Črne koze
کوردی: ھاوڵە
српски / srpski: Богиње
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Boginje
suomi: Isorokko
svenska: Smittkoppor
Tagalog: Bulutong
татарча/tatarça: Чәчәк (авыру)
తెలుగు: మశూచి
українська: Натуральна віспа
اردو: چیچک
Tiếng Việt: Đậu mùa
Võro: Hernetõbi
Winaray: Pandok
吴语: 天花
ייִדיש: פאקן
žemaitėška: Raupā
中文: 天花