Silver Spring, Md. -- The FDA has approved the first drug to treat smallpox as a way to decrease the risk of the virus being used as a bioweapon.
Even though smallpox was eradicated in 1980, there have been longstanding concerns that it could be used to hurt others.
"This is the first product to be awarded a Material Threat Medical Countermeasure priority review voucher. Today’s action reflects the FDA’s commitment to ensuring that the U.S. is prepared for any public health emergency with timely, safe and effective medical products,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.
Previously, there was no treatment or cure for smallpox - only a vaccine to prevent it.
The drug, TPOXX, was put on a fast track status so that it would be listed as a priority to be developed.
The smallpox virus was highly contagious and was mainly spread by direct contact. Symptoms would usually start 10 to 14 days after the infection, including fever, exhaustion, and headaches.
Those who had smallpox would develop a rash consisting of small, pink bumps that could leave permanent scarring.
Most people recover from smallpox, but some cases resulted in blindness or even death.
Small quantities of smallpox virus still exist in two research laboratories in Atlantic, Georgia and in Russia, according to NIH.