Smallpox, also known as variola, is a viral disease attributable to poxvirus, which is passed on from one individual to other causing distinctive rashes, and high fever. Roughly one-third of the people infected by poxvirus succumb to the disease. In addition, this disease is among the potentially most ravaging biological weapons conceived by man ever. In fact, smallpox is the sole ailment that has been totally eliminated from all over the planet.
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Variola is the name of the virus responsible for smallpox and belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus. Different viruses that cause orf, cowpox, molluscum contagiosum and monkeypox also belong to this genus. It may be noted here that poxviruses are known to be the largest among all animal viruses and can be seen even under a simple microscope. In fact, the size of poxviruses is greater compared to a number of bacteria and they enclose a double-stranded DNA.
Poxviruses are unique among all types of viruses as they do not require the nucleus of a cell to reproduce within the cell. So far scientists have only been able to identify the variola virus for causing smallpox, which afflicts humans only. In effect, there are no known insect vectors (insects that carry the virus) or any animal reservoirs (animals carrying the variola virus).
Prior to the elimination of the disease from the earth, smallpox continued to exist by means of transmitting the variola virus from one individual to another. As a result of this, the variola virus was always passed on from one individual to another and, as far as available documents are concerned, it never infected animals. Children as well as pregnant women faced the maximum risks of catching smallpox and compared to normal people, they were more severely affected by the disease.
Generally, humans acquired the variola virus due to inhalation or breathing it into their lungs. Particles of this virus could stay behind on a number of items, including clothes, bedding and surfaces for a maximum duration of one week.
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Beginning from the lungs, this virus assaulted the bloodstream and subsequently spread to different parts of the body, including the skin, lungs, brain, intestines and the kidneys. The action of the virus present in the skin is responsible for eruption of rash that initially appears as macules (reddish, even lesions). Henceforth, they form of vesicles (elevated blisters). Subsequently, about 12 to 17 days after a person is infected by the variola virus, pus-filled pimples or pustules start appearing all over the skin.
Once a person has been infected by the virus, it may take anything between seven and 17 days for the symptoms to come in view - this is common in all major smallpox types. Roughly 72 hours to 96 hours following the infection, the variola virus starts developing in the bloodstream, but no noticeable symptoms appear instantly.
Individuals who have come in contact with the variola virus or developed smallpox, experience symptoms like headaches, body aches, fever and especially backache during the initial stages of the disease. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of people suffering from smallpox endure vomiting and chills, while approximately 15 per cent of the patients become confused.
It is only after about 48 hours to 72 hours of the initial symptoms a rash appears and it gradually changes into sores filled with the virus covering the surface of the skin. It may take about two weeks for the rashes to develop all over the body and turn into pustules.
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Soon after the emergence of the rash, the virus becomes highly infectious since it shifts inside the mucous membranes. At this stage, the body discards the cells releasing the virus particles through cough or sneeze into the surroundings. In fact, any person suffering from smallpox can continue to be contagious for a period of about three weeks after the appearance of the rash and till the dried outer layer or scabs drops from the rash.
The scabs may contain live viruses. When the crusts or scabs drop or fall off, which usually takes anything between two weeks and four weeks, the skin surface remains somewhat indented. In other words, the rash leaves a pale colored scar, which can be removed through treatment.
During the initial stages of their appearance, it is possible for one to easily mistake the rash as well as the pustules (pus-filled sores) to be those of chickenpox. In the case of smallpox, initially the lesions appear in the mouth and from there they spread all over the face. Subsequently, the lesions spread to the hands and forearms and at last to the trunk and the lower limbs.
Contrary to this, rash due to chickenpox first appear in the arms and legs and spread to the trunk. In fact, chickenpox rash is seldom found in the palms, soles, armpits and the area around the elbow.
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Several herbs and supplements are effective in treating smallpox. For instance, giving the patients herbs possessing diaphoretic (ability to induce sweating) properties and hot baths will help the blister-like rashes to rupture more quickly and promote rapid healing.
You may give the patient an herbal tea prepared from diaphoretic herbs, which are available at stores selling herbal products. Prepare several cups of the tea and store it in a thermos and give the patient one cup every time he/ she requires it. It is advisable that you keep of providing the patients with a cup of the herbal tea continuously and urge them to sip it often. In between administering the tea prepared from diaphoretic herbs, you should give the patients fluids that will help to hydrate them again. Ensure that the patient does not become dehydrated.
Yarrow is one herb that is particularly beneficial for people suffering from smallpox. For optimal results, it is advisable that you combine yarrow with lady's slipper (botanical name Cypripedium acaule) and pleurisy root (botanical name Asclepias tuberosa) in equal proportions. If you do not get lady's slipper, you may use valerian root (botanical name Valeriana officinalis) or catnip (Nepeta cataria) as a substitute.
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You may also prepare a bath tea using yellow dock root (botanical name Rumex crispus), burdock root (botanical name Arctium spp.) or goldenseal root (botanical name Hydrastis Canadensis). Bathing with any of these herbal teas will also help to alleviate itching.
Besides alleviating itching, goldenseal is particularly effective in lessening pitting. An infusion prepared with goldenseal root may be employed to rinse and clean the pustules when they being to rupture. You may also prepare an ointment using goldenseal roots, beeswax and fat or alternately use the oil extracted from the goldenseal root and fat and apply it to the pustules many times daily to evade much of the pitting.
Apart from the herbal remedies discussed above, there are several other herbal treatments, which have been found to be beneficial for people with smallpox. Some such herbal remedies are mentioned below briefly.
While a decoction prepared from bistort root is effective for cleansing the pustules and possesses toning and astringent properties, the leaves of red raspberry can be blended with bistort to prepare an astringent and toning tea.
In addition, the herb European pennyroyal has a balmy effect on the stomach. It also possesses diaphoretic as well as tonic properties that are effective for treating fevers, eruptive diseases and congestion of the bronchial tract. The standard dose of this herbal tea is anything between 6 oz to 8 oz taken at intervals of one to two hours.
The herb chamomile as well as pineapple weed (also called wild chamomile - botanical name, M. discoidea) have a calming effect on the eyes and are helpful in alleviating inflammation and pain of the eyes. Prepare a potent tea using either of these herbs, immerse a little flannel cloth in this herbal tea and use it to cover the inflamed and sore eyes.
The tea may be applied warm or cold, depending on what is comfortable to the patient. In addition, you may directly apply this herbal tea over the eyes. However, when you are using the tea directly, you should always ensure that the tea does not contain any material from the chamomile plant.
A tincture or tea prepared from catnip may have a calming effect on the nerves and be beneficial for a patient who is always anxious. This herb is also effective for treating feverish conditions and may be employed in the form of an enema to induce sweating. In addition, catnip also assists in alleviating the uneasiness caused by smallpox. The patient may drink one cup of the tea prepared from catnip many times daily or just one dropper of its tincture, depending on the requirement.
Generally, plenty of time is consumed in completely curing smallpox. Even when a patient is cured and all the blisters have gone, ugly scars are left behind.
The scars left behind by smallpox are not only deep rooted, but also take sufficient time to fade away. While several lotions are available for treating smallpox scars, it is best to treat those using natural means and prevent any further infections. The patient's immune system does not recover its normal health even after he/ she has been completely cured of smallpox.
It is always advisable that you use natural home remedies to erase the scars and restore the unblemished skin. There are various different home remedies that effectively treat the scars left behind by smallpox and some of them are discussed below.
One of the excellent ways to treat the smallpox scars is to augment your vitamin E intake. Foods like cereals, tomatoes, hazel nut and others contain elevated levels of vitamin E. In addition, you may also apply tomato pulp directly to the affected skin to get rid of the smallpox scars.
Another way to remove the scars is applying honey to them, as doing this will make the scars lighter and eventually make them disappear. For optimal results apply pure honey to the scars at least thrice daily.
You may also use lemon for rubbing on the skin daily prior to taking a bath. Preferably, you should apply the oil extracted from lemon to the scars and allow it to remain for about an hour prior to taking the bath. This is an effective home remedy, as it helps to make your skin younger as well as to make it appear lively.
The seeds of Gulbaz plant are also effective in removing smallpox scars. Take some ripened black seeds of this plant, pulverize them and prepare a paste with water. Use this paste over the scars and allow it to dry out. Subsequently, rinse your face using cold water and use a towel to pat it dry. If you are using this herbal remedy, you should be careful to avoid heat after the treatment.
Massaging your body with cocoa butter is also helpful in removing the scars. Cocoa butter is effective in healing the skin more rapidly and, at the same time, quickly gets rid of the scars too. In addition, tea tree oil is another effective home remedy for scars left behind by smallpox.
Last, but not the least, applying sandalwood paste as well as sandalwood oil to the scars is also helpful in getting rid of them. Ideally, you need to apply these to the scars prior to your bath.
All the natural home remedies for smallpox scars discussed above are not only effective in getting rid of them, but also restoring the health of your skin. Even six months after one has been completely cured of smallpox, the diet of the patients should include plenty of spinach, green cabbage as well as dairy products.