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?
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.
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Update: June 2012