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A Summary of the Smallpox Incubation Period

When a person becomes infected with the virus that causes smallpox (variola), the virus begins to multiply within the body. After approximately 12 to 14 days, smallpox symptoms can begin (symptoms can begin as early as 7 days or as late as 17 days). This period between the transmission of smallpox and the start of smallpox symptoms is the "smallpox incubation period."


Is a Person Contagious During the Smallpox Incubation Period?

A person is not contagious during the smallpox incubation period. He or she will typically become mildly contagious at the point when symptoms begin. A person is most contagious at the onset of the smallpox rash. At this stage, the infected person is usually very sick and not able to move around in the community. Risks of smallpox transmission may last until all scabs have fallen off.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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