Complications associated with smallpox

Complications associated with smallpox

Complications associated with smallpox

Known complications include:

  • Dermatological problems: Scarring / pockmarks (12), as well as abscess formation and furuncles (boils) – often due to secondary bacterial infections.
  • Ophthalmologic problems: Conjunctivitis, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid), ulceration of the cornea, keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) and blindness (partial or complete loss of vision in the affected eye/s). (13)
  • Respiratory problems: Pneumonitis (pneumonia) (14), bronchopneumonia (inflammation of the bronchi / air passages allowing airflow into the lungs) and pulmonary oedema (excess accumulation of fluid in the lungs).
  • Orthopaedic problems: Inflammation and swelling of the elbow joint, osteomyelitis variolosa (infection of the bone and joints) (15) and viral arthritis.
  • Pregnancy and infant-related problems: haemorrhagic disease (a bleeding disorder affecting newborns), intrauterine infections, premature delivery and neonatal mortality (death of a newborn baby within 28 days of life). (16)
  • Other: Dehydration, orchitis (inflammation of the male testicles), sepsis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and death (most often after developing coagulopathy – a bleeding disorder, hypotension – low blood pressure or multiple-organ failure).


12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 2016. Smallpox - Clinical Disease: [Accessed 06.04.2018]

13. JAMA Opthamology. May 2003. The Ocular Complications of Smallpox and Smallpox Immunization: [Accessed 06.04.2018]

14. The New England Journal of Medicine. April 2002. Diagnosis and Management of Smallpox: [Accessed 06.04.2018]

15. British Medical Journal (BMJ). January 1964. Bone Lesions due to Smallpox: [Accessed 06.04.2018]

16. US National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. July 2006.Smallpox during Pregnancy and Maternal Outcomes: Accessed 06.04.2018]

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