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Question:
Can smallpox be cultured from the cells of a cadaver of a person who died of the disease? In general, what happens to a pathogen locked within the cells of a deceased host? Does the pathogen always die with the host, or can it retain viability for hours/days/decades after the host has died?



Replies:
There is little threat of a smallpox epidemic in the future, as we have fairly successfully eradicated it from the face of the earth. As far as viability in the dead body of a host, the viral particle can remain viable for a certain amount of time, but with the burial of the body, the virus cannot spread, and in time deteriorates from natural decay. Since it has been many years since a smallpox outbreak, digging up the corpse of a victim poses little threat to anyone.

--Wordsworth



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