Questions & Answers

What is smallpox?

Smallpox is a viral disease unique to humans and caused by the Variola virus. After a successful Public Health vaccination campaign, it was eradicated in 1977.

Can I get Smallpox in the mail?

No, Smallpox cannot be sent in the mail in the form of a white powder. In the majority of cases, smallpox is spread from one person to another by infected saliva droplets that expose a susceptible person having face-to-face contact with the ill person.

Is the threat real?

The concern about smallpox is rising because of its possible use as a bioterrorist weapon. However, at the present time there is no evidence of smallpox transmission anywhere in the world and we have no information that suggests an imminent smallpox threat.

What can I do to prepare my family for a bioterrorist event?

The best preparation will be the Public Health monitoring and surveillance which includes working with all hospitals and physicians to report any suspicious illness immediately. If a release were to happen, regional and national emergency response would be put into place and you would be provided information and instructions immediately. It's always good to be prepared for any emergency by having food, water, a radio, batteries and other emergency supplies on hand.

What is Stanislaus County Public Health Department's Emergency Plan?

Our county's emergency operations plan includes specific response to bioterrorism. As with any emergency, a coordinated response will be conducted with fire, police, health care providers and other public agencies. In the case of bioterrorism, the plan addresses detection, surveillance, laboratory analysis, emergency response, treatment, and communication with the public. Also the Public Health Department is instructing our county's physicians to report any suspicious illness immediately.

Will antibiotics protect me against smallpox?

Antibiotics are meant to fight off bacterial infections. They cannot be used against viral infections. Since smallpox is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not fight the smallpox infection.

Where can I get smallpox vaccine?

In the United States, routine vaccination against smallpox ended in 1972. The smallpox vaccine is not currently available to the general public. At this time, national plans do not include routine vaccination of the public against smallpox.

Where can I find more information?

You can go to Stanislaus County, Health Services Agency, or call The Stanislaus County, Public Health Department at (209)558-5678 .

You can also contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at or call toll free; English: (888) 246-2675, Español: (888) 246-2857, TTY: (866) 874-2646.