Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Acute, highly contagious infection caused by variola, one of a group of Old World DNA poxviruses. Occurred in three forms of increasing severity: varioloid, variola minor, and variola major. Symptoms included an initial stage characterized by high fever, headache, and vomiting, and a second stage marked by the formation of disfiguring lesions; encephalitic involvement and death was a common outcome. Variola is molecularly related to other Poxviridae that cause similar diseases in domestic animals such as cows (cowpox), sheep, goats, horses and pigs. Some researchers speculate that the human form developed after domestication, and is possibly a simple mutant of the wild form. The last case of smallpox occurred in Somalia on October 26, 1977; the virus has been preserved in laboratories, however. Aka variola.

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