variola major

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to variola major: variola minor, Variola vera


An acute eruptive contagious disease caused by a poxvirus (Orthopoxvirus, a member of the family Poxviridae) and marked at the onset by chills, high fever, backache, and headache. In 2-5 days these constitutional symptoms subside and an eruption appears as papules, which become umbilicated vesicles, develop into pustules, dry, and form scabs that, on falling off, leave a permanent marking of the skin (pock marks). The average incubation period is 8-14 days. As a result of increasingly aggressive vaccination programs carried out over a period of about 200 years, smallpox is now extinct.
Synonym(s): variola major, variola
[E. small pocks, or pustules]

Smallpox was a universally dreaded scourge for more than 3 millennia, with case fatality rates sometimes exceeding 20%. In many ways a unique disease, it had no nonhuman reservoir species and no asymptomatic human carriers. First subjected to some control by variolation in the 10th century in India and China, it was gradually suppressed in the industrialized world after Edward Jenners 1776 landmark demonstration that infection with the harmless cowpox (vaccinia) virus renders humans immune to the smallpox virus. The last case diagnosed in the U.S. occurred in 1949. A global eradication program was initiated by the World Health Organization in 1966, and the last naturally occurring case of the disease was reported in Somalia in 1977. Routine vaccination against smallpox, discontinued in the 1970s, has been resumed for military and health care personnel and others who would be at high risk if smallpox virus should be used as a weapon of biologic warfare or bioterrorism.

Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012

va·ri·o·la ma·jor

(var-ī'ō-lă mā'jŏr)
Severe form of smallpox.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012

variola major

Smallpox with its full-blown, classic symptoms.
Synonym: variola vera
See also: variola
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners
References in periodicals archive ?
The authors of Smallpox and its Eradication recognise this by discussing types of Variola major such as 'haemorrhagic' and 'flat' adding: that with a virus that was initially extremely virulent, several different strains which differed substantially in virulence arose within a few years and persisted in nature ...
Smallpox in people is not zoonotic and presents in two clinical forms, variola major (25% to 30% fatality rate with signs of shock, toxemia, and intravascular coagulation) and a similar but milder disease known as variola minor (less than 1% fatality rate).
The mortality rate of smallpox variola major infection is approximately 30 percent.
Of the four clinical forms of smallpox, the two most commonly observed were variola major and variola minor.
A Smallpox (variola major) kills about a third of those infected.
Smallpox infection can occur in a more severe form, variola major, where mucous membranes become hemorrhagic, and lesions are large and confluent on the body.
The agents most likely to be used as weapons in the commission of an act of bioterrorism include variola major (smallpox), Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Yersinia pestis (plague), Francisella tularensis (tularemia), Brucella species (brucellosis), and Clostridium botulinum intoxication (botulism).
The gravest fears involve smallpox, and they are not without warrant: If terrorists were to use the variola major strain of the virus, which once racked the Indian subcontinent, 40 percent of the people who are infected would die.
In part this is because smallpox strains--even variola major, the form responsible for most infections throughout human history--vary quite a lot in their virulence.
Agents of highest concern are Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Yersinia pestis (plague), variola major (smallpox), Clostridium botulinum toxin (botulism), Francisella tularensis (tularemia), filoviruses (Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Marburg hemorrhagic fever); and arenaviruses (Lassa [Lassa fever], Junin [Argentine hemorrhagic fever], and related viruses).
The more potent form of the disease, called variola major, killed about 30 per cent of its victims, and the survivors were disfigured with ugly scars.
This very same strategy was successful with smallpox, and, for all intents and purposes, smallpox (Variola Major) only exists in the laboratory.