Smallpox Vaccinations Begin

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After President Bush warned Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face the military might of the U.S., healthcare providers in several states, including Illinois, began to receive the smallpox vaccination.

Even though the plans to inoculate healthcare workers were laid out last November, political experts say it is no coincidence that these immunizations coincide with the president's call for war.

A war with Iraq is seemingly just days away, and hundreds of medical personal and key first responders will begin to receive the smallpox vaccination here in Illinois. Experts say that it is not a coincidence that the president waited before each of the states began their public emergency health plan before announcing his plan for war.

This is all about America's war plan. Nearly 200 emergency room doctors and nurses in Winnebago county are expected to voluntarily receive the smallpox vaccination over the next month. This is phase one of a three part plan to protect our community from a possible terrorist attack," said Tom Flemming, political expert.

"The probability is low that this could happen but the consequences are significant," said Mike Bacon, Winnebago Co. Health Dept.

Some 500,000 military troops and 17,000 civilian medical personal have already been vaccinated with minimal adverse reactions. Tuesday four healthcare workers here volunteered to receive their inoculations and had no concerns about potential side effects.

The county says they are confident they can inoculate everyone in Winnebago County within 96 hours of a large-scale smallpox release. For now the inoculations will remain on a voluntary basis for medical personal until the U.S. Department of Health directs otherwise.

The second phase of the smallpox vaccinations is expected to start when the U.S. goes to war with Iraq that will include inoculating police, fire and paramedics on a voluntary basis. No word yet when the public will be allowed to receive a vaccination. Extended Web Coverage


  • The name smallpox is derived from the Latin word “spotted” and refers to the raised bumps that appear on the body of an infected person.

Forms of Smallpox

  • Two forms of smallpox, variola major and variola minor.

  • Variola Major: The sever and most common form of small pox, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. Four types of variola major smallpox:
    • Ordinary: The most frequent type, accounting for 90 percent of the cases.
    • Modified: Mild and occurring in previously vaccinated persons.
    • Flat: Very fatal. Very hard to recover from this form of smallpox.
    • Hemorrhagic: Very rare and most serious. Extremely fatal form of smallpox.

  • Variola Minor: A less common presentation of smallpox, and a much less sever disease, with death rates historically of one percent or less.

Where Smallpox Originates From

  • Smallpox is caused by the variola virus that emerged in human population thousands of years ago.

  • Except for laboratory stockpiles, the variola virus has been eliminated.


  • Direct and prolonged face-to-face contact is required to spread smallpox.

  • Can be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.

  • Rarely, smallpox has been spread by virus carried in the air in enclosed settings such as buildings, buses and trains.

  • Humans are the only natural hosts of variola. Smallpox is not known to be transmitted by insects or animals.

Stages of Smallpox Disease

  • Incubation Period (7-17 days, not contagious) – Exposure to the virus is followed by an incubation period, which people do not have any symptoms and may feel fine.

  • Initial Symptoms (2-4 days, sometimes contagious) – The first symptoms of smallpox include fever, malaise, head and body aches, and sometimes vomiting. The fever is usually high, in the range of 101° F - 104° F.

  • Early Rash (4 days, most contagious) – A rash emerges first as small red spots on the tongue and in the mouth. Usually the rash spreads to all parts of the body within 24 hours. As the rash appears, the fever usually falls and the person may start feeling better. However, by the fourth day, the bumps fill with a thick fluid, the fever will raise again and will last until scabs begin to form on the bumps.

  • Pustular Rash (5 days, contagious) – The bumps become pustules, sharply raised, usually round and firm to the touch as if there is a small round object under the skin.

  • Pustules and Scabs (5 days, contagious) – The pustules begin to form a crust and then scab. By the end of the second week after the rash appears, most of the sores have scabbed over.

  • Resolving Scabs (6 days, contagious) – The scabs begin to fall off, leaving marks on the skin that eventually become pitted scars. Most scabs will have fallen off three weeks after the rash appears.

  • Scabs Resolved (not contagious) – Scabs have fallen off. Person is no longer contagious.

Source: (Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response’s Web site) contributed to this report.