Smallpox Fast Facts

A vial of dried smallpox vaccination is shown December 5, 2002, in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The vial holds approximately 100 doses of the smallpox vaccine. Orlando, Florida, area law enforcement agencies plan to be vaccinated for smallpox.

(CNN)Here's a look at smallpox, a contagious and sometimes fatal infectious disease. The most severe and most common form of the smallpox virus is known as variola major.

Types of variola major smallpox:
Ordinary - most common, 85% of cases
Modified - mild and occurs in those that have been vaccinated
Flat - occurs more frequently in children and is usually fatal
Hemorrhagic - occurs more frequently in adults; is severe and usually fatal
Smallpox is transmitted through extended face-to-face contact, or direct contact with infected body fluids or contaminated objects.
Insects and animals do not transmit smallpox.
    The incubation period averages about 10 to 14 days (but can range from seven to 19 days) following exposure. Subjects are not contagious at this time.
    Initial symptoms include high fever, fatigue and head and back aches. A characteristic rash that is prominent on the face, arms and legs follows in two to three days. The rash starts with flat red lesions that evolve at the same rate. Lesions become pus-filled and begin to crust early in the second week. Scabs develop and then separate and fall off after about three to four weeks.
    The majority of patients with smallpox recover, but death occurs in up to 30% of cases.
    1950s - Worldwide, 15 million cases of smallpox are reported each year.
    1977 - The last naturally occurring case of smallpox in the world occurs in Somalia.
    1979 - Smallpox meets the criteria for eradication by having no natural cases for two years.