difference between smallpox and chickenpox

difference between smallpox and chickenpox

difference between smallpox and chickenpox

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What’s the Difference Between Smallpox and Chickenpox?

Smallpox and chickenpox might seem similar. They both cause rashes and blisters. They both have “pox” in their names. But other than that, they’re completely different diseases.You really don’t need to know how to tell them apart. That’s because no one in the U.S. has had smallpox for more than 65 years. But there are still important things to know about both.

1. Chickenpox is still around. Smallpox is pretty much extinct.

Until recently, chickenpox was a very common illness, especially in kids. It made about 4 million people sick every year and sent more than 10,000 to the hospital. The chickenpox vaccine has made it much rarer. But people still catch it every year.

On the other hand, your odds of getting smallpox are close to zero. You’re about as likely to be stepped on by a wooly mammoth. Thanks to the smallpox vaccine, this disease is all but gone. The last case anywhere in the world was in 1978. The only known samples of smallpox are in two secure research labs — one in the U.S. and one in Russia.

difference between smallpox and chickenpox
difference between smallpox and chickenpox

2. Chickenpox is usually mild. Smallpox was often deadly.

The varicella virus causes chickenpox. It’s very easy to catch. If you have chickenpox, you’ll get itchy blisters on the body (which eventually scab over), along with other symptoms like fever and tiredness. It usually lasts about 5 to 7 days.

Smallpox was very different. It was also caused by a virus (variola). It caused a rash, blisters, and fever, just like chickenpox. But it was much more serious. About 3 out of 10 people who got it died. Some who survived ended up blind or with permanent scars. Experts think that in the 20th century, it killed more than 300 million people.


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3. Doctors can tell chickenpox and smallpox apart.

While they may look similar to the untrained eye, smallpox rashes are different:

Chickenpox sores show up at different times in different areas. They’re mostly on the stomach, chest, and back, and rarely on the palms or the soles of your feet.

Smallpox sores appeared all over the body at the same time (mostly on the face, arms, and legs, and sometimes on the palms and soles) and all looked the same..

difference between smallpox and chickenpox
difference between smallpox and chickenpox

4. Kids (and some adults) need the chickenpox vaccine. Almost no one needs the smallpox vaccine.

While chickenpox is a mild disease for most, it can sometimes cause dangerous problems — especially in babies, adults, and people with weak immune systems. That’s why doctors recommend that all kids get the vaccine — once around age 1, and a booster shot between ages 4 and 6. Older kids and some adults who never got the vaccine or chickenpox  itself need it, too. It’s safe and up to 98% effective.

While there’s still a smallpox vaccine, people don’t need it anymore because there’s no one to catch smallpox from. In the United States, most people born after 1972 never got the vaccine. The only folks who might still get the shot are researchers in labs who work with smallpox (or similar viruses) and some members of the military.

5. Some experts worry that smallpox could be used as a weapon.

You may see news stories about smallpox from time to time. They’re usually about the possibility that a person or group could use the virus to make people sick.

It’s a scary thought. But it’s never happened, and it would be very hard to pull off. It is spread via direct contact with an infected person who has the classic rash and is coughing or sneezing (shedding respiratory droplets. It isn’t spread through the air.Remember that the only known samples are safe in two secure labs. But just in case of a disaster, the government keeps enough smallpox vaccine to protect every person in the United States and recently the drug tecovirimat (TPOXX) was approved to treat anyone who may contract the virus.
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Smallpox is extinct, But Chickenpox Is Still Active.

Chickenpox is a common illness in kids. About 4 million people get sick with it every year, and thousands are sent to the hospital. Although the vaccine has made it much rarer, many people still get it every year.

On the other hand, the chances of someone getting Smallpox is almost zero. The disease is all but gone, thanks to the vaccine.

difference between smallpox and chickenpox
difference between smallpox and chickenpox

Effects Of Smallpox Are Deadly Vs. Chickenpox Are Mild.

Varicella is the cause of Chickenpox, and it’s straightforward to catch Chickenpox. You will get itchy blisters all over your body and have a high fever. Smallpox, in most cases, lasts about 5 to 7 days.

With Smallpox, an average of 3 out of 10 people who got it died. Those who survived ended up being blind or with permanent scars.

Your Doctor Can Identify If It’s A Chickenpox and Smallpox.

  • Chickenpox, all the sores come into visibility, not simultaneously as well as they come mostly on the stomach, chest, and back. It’s sporadic to have them on the palms or the soles of your feet.
  • Smallpox, all the sores come into visibility simultaneously and all across the body, and they all look the same too.

Chickenpox Vaccine Vs. Smallpox Vaccine.

While Chickenpox can cause critical illness in infants or those with a fragile immune system, it’s just a mild disease for the rest. Hence children receive a vaccine at the age of one and a booster between the four and six.

On the other hand, people do not require a smallpox vaccine anymore. No one in the US got the vaccine if they were born after 1972. Only those working at medical labs might need it.

difference between smallpox and chickenpox
difference between smallpox and chickenpox

Differences Between Chickenpox and Smallpox





1 Causative Agent Varicella Zoster Virus (Herpes Virus) Variola virus (Pox Virus)
2 Incubation period 14-21 days 7-17 days
3 Severity Chickenpox is less deadly comparing to small pox. Smallpox is deadly severe comparing to chicken pox.
4 Lesions Lesions first appear on the face or trunk. Lesions first appear in the throat or mouth, then on the face, or on the upper arms.
5 Rash Lesions Lesions develop in successive fashion. While some are new, others are crusting over (in “crops”). Lesions develop at the same time, and they look alike on any one section of the body, such as the abdomen, arms, or face.
6 Initial Symptoms 0 to 2 days of mild illness pass before the rash develops. 2 to 3 days of severe illness pass before the rash develops.
7 Rash Lesions Lesions change rapidly, crusting over within 24 hours. Lesions change slowly, scabbing over after 9 to 15 days.

Rash Lesions

Lesions sit on the skin surface and look like small blisters. Lesions become firm, dome-shaped, and deep in the skin.
9 Rash Lesions Rash rarely develops on palms and soles. Rash commonly develops on palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
10 Rash Lesions Lesions are most concentrated on the torso, with fewest on the hands and feet. Lesions can affect the face and scalp, but rarely affect the entire body equally. Lesions are most concentrated on the face, hands, and feet.
11 Rash Lesions No illness precedes the chickenpox rash. Malaise, fever, rigors, vomiting, headache and backache precede the rash by two to three days.
12 Scabs Scabs that are not infectious begin to form four to seven days after the rash appears. Scabs that can be infectious begin to form 10 to 14 days after the rash appears.
13 Scabs Scabs fall off within 14 days after the rash begins. Scabs fall off 14 to 28 days after the rash begins.
14 Pocks Pocks are more superficial. Pocks are buried deep in the dermis.
15 Vesicles Vesicles collapse on puncture. Vesicles do not collapse on puncture.
16 Evolution of Pocks Asynchronous Synchronous
17 Prevalence Chickenpox is still prevailing. Smallpox has been eradicated from the earth.
18 Fever Fever occurs with each crop of vesicles Fever subsides with development of rash,

may appear again with formation of pustules

(secondary rise of temperature)

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