What is smallpox?

Smallpox is caused by the variola virus. In 1980, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared smallpox eradicated. The usually severe disease is manifested by high fever and a nodular skin rash. Up to 30% of people who contract smallpox die.


What else should I know about smallpox?

  • The smallpox vaccine was regularly administered in Switzerland until 1972. There are currently no approved smallpox vaccines and vaccination is not recommended for the general public. Vaccination is only recommended for people who work with smallpox in laboratories and for certain officials and diplomats who inspect such laboratories.

  • The smallpox vaccination is one of the first vaccinations in the world and was introduced by the physician Edward Jenner in 1798. Although smallpox vaccination was the first worldwide vaccination campaign (started as early as 1803 with the Balmis Expedition), it was only through joint global efforts and the intervention of the WHO that smallpox was finally eradicated.

  • For more information on smallpox, please visit the website of the FOPH.

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