Virus and Vaccination
Symptoms and Suffering
The variola virus was first seen under a microscope in 1907.4 Before this it was impossible to determine where on the victims' bodies the virus was concentrated in infectious quantities. Speculation was rampant and everything from swampwater to food sources have been blamed for the spread of an epidemic, in addition to the essential human contact. Both variolation and vaccination developed out of much guesswork, and many fatal experiments.
When a person contracts smallpox, the virus first settles in the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, and from there spreads to other soft tissue in the body. During the 10-14 days of this incubation period the person becomes more infectious as the virus proliferates in the upper respiratory tract and is expelled on the moisture droplets of the breath. This phase is especially dangerous since during the incubation period the victim does not yet experience the characteristic symptoms that make diagnosis possible, but is already a carrier of the disease and can spread it to others. The person may not realize that he or she is ill, all the while infecting those around them.
The symptoms arrive suddenly; one day after the incubation period the victim experiences severe chills and high fever, pain in the lower back, headaches, and loss of appetite. On the second day a skin rash usually appears on the groin and abdomen, which fades after about 24 hours, at which time the fever begins to subside. Three to four days later red spots (macules) emerge on the skin of the face, torso and limbs, forming first raised lesions (papules) and then liquid-filled vesicles and pustules.5 Three different grades of symptoms have been identified; the lethal V. haemorrhagica, V.vera, and V.mitigata. When lesions cover a significant area of the body and the victim begins bleeding from the destroyed mucous membranes and skin death occurs within three to five days of the onset of these symptoms. If the victim survives until the pustules form scabs which fall off after about two weeks (V.vera), there is a possibility of survival unless the victim succumbs to secondary infections such as pneumonia. The treatment of immersing feverish smallpox victims in cold water to lower the body temperature frequently allows pneumonia to take hold, which the victim seldom survives in their weakened state.
The non-lethal V. mitigata occurs only in persons who have a partial immunity through vaccination; the symptoms end in an outbreak of blisters which leave raised bumps on the skin after drying out, not leaving the characteristic deep pockmarks found on those who survive V. vera. The actual causes of death in the fatal courses of the disease range from toxemia (the body poisons itself) to organ failure.6 While this include the internal organs it should be remembered that the skin is the largest organ of the body, serving as the membrane that holds in body fluid and excretes water and other substances to keep the body's internal chemistry in balance. When the skin damaged beyond recovery by the ravages of disease or burns, the victim dies.