Long ago, smallpox was only known as a terrifying, deadly disease. Today, it is a representation of man’s greatest accomplishment. For the first time in history, mankind has proven its ability to completely eradicate a dangerous disease.
Humanity did not reach this point unintentionally. Once the smallpox vaccine was created, it had to be produced in amazingly large quantities and distributed around the world. Basically, the entire globe had to be vaccinated for the disease before it could disappear. By 1980, smallpox was officially eradicated. Outside of laboratories, the disease no longer exists.
Unfortunately, there are still concerns that the smallpox virus could be used as a biological weapon by terrorists or foreign governments. Known for being a highly contagious disease, smallpox was also know for causing a massive number of deaths. Caused by variola, this disease could only be stopped by being vaccinated in advance. While many countries have stopped vaccinated their citizens for smallpox, there are still people who have the telltale scar from being vaccinated. If someone has been vaccinated for smallpox, they will generally have a scar from the vaccine on the upper portion of their arm.
What Causes a Smallpox Vaccine Scar to Happen?
The way that the smallpox vaccine scar looks is because of the way that it is given. When you go to the doctor for your vaccine, a nurse or your doctor will use several punctures on your upper arm with the needle to give you the vaccine. The smallpox vaccine is given using a needle that has two-prongs.
Once the vaccine has been administered, the inoculation location is covered with a gauze to keep the virus present from spreading to other people or parts of your body. During the following three weeks, your inoculation site will start to heal. While the timeline for this may vary slightly from person to person, it generally happens in set stages. As this occurs, your body is working to build a natural immunity against the virus.
Why Do You Have to Have a Scar?
Smallpox is a type of disease that causes infectious blisters. Like other poxes like chickenpox or cowpox, it makes blisters form on the body. In the same way, the vaccine causes a blister to form at the inoculation site. This also occurs because of the way your body reacts to the injection. Antibodies form at the site where the fork-like needle was used. As the injection spot recovers, you naturally begin to develop a scar.
What Will My Scar Look Like?
As mentioned before, the stages of scarring will vary slightly from person to person. As a rule, you can expect a red, raised bump at around day three. On day five, the raised bump will begin to fill with a clear fluid. The clear fluid will start to turn white and cloudy around day seven. On day 10, the bump will be at its largest size. From day 14 to 21, the bump on your arm will slowly start to dry up, recede and leave a lasting scar.
Are There Side Effects That I Should Watch Out for?
While side effects are fairly rare, they can happen occasionally. The smallpox vaccine scar is by far the most common side effect. Fairly common, mild side effects include: a low fever, problems sleeping, soreness on the spot where you were inoculated, feeling unwell and sore glands in your armpit.
On rare occasions, people may experience more severe side effects. About 1,000 individuals in every 1 million will experience a serious reaction. If you do experience serious side effects, it is important that you immediately seek medical attention.
Some serious, and highly rare, side effects of the vaccination include:
– You could experience a widespread rash if the vaccine’s virus spreads to your blood. This could cause sores at several locations on your body.
– You may develop an ongoing infection that causes the tissue to die and potentially death if left untreated.
– You could have a rash or sore in an area that was caused by accidentally touching the inoculation site and spreading the virus to another part of your body. It is important to always wash your hands so that this does not happen. If the infection gets to your eyes, it can lead to blindness.
– If you are allergic to the vaccine, you may develop a rash or similar symptoms.
– You could develop postvaccinal encephalitis, which is the medical term for the inflammation of the brain.
– You could develop a type of skin rash known as eczema vaccinatum.
If you suffer from certain medical conditions or have a weakened immune system, it is important that you share this information with your doctor before you receive the smallpox vaccine. Certain conditions can increase your chances of experiencing side effects, so discuss your full medical history with your doctor before getting the vaccine. If you have a weakened immune system, the only time that you should get the vaccine is if you believe that you may have been exposed to smallpox.
How Does the Smallpox Vaccine Work?
The last time there was a case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949. By 1977, the globe saw its final case of the dreaded illness in Somalia. Since the disease was officially declared eradicated in 1980, most governments no longer ask that people become vaccinated against smallpox. Unless someone works in the military, scientific laboratories or health settings, they may not need to get the vaccine.
When someone is given the vaccine, their body is able to develop an immunity against smallpox. Basically, your body learns to recognize a live, weakened form of the smallpox virus. This gives you immunity against the disease if you encounter it in the future. Even if you have already been exposed to smallpox, you can still take the vaccine within three to seven days. You would still contract smallpox, but it would be a less serious bout of the illness if you had been given the disease without the vaccine. If you were given the vaccine long before encountering smallpox, you are protected from the illness completely.