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Four Develop Vaccinia Infections Stemming From Smallpox Shot

March 30, 2011


Four individuals became infected with the vaccinia virus through direct or second-hand exposure to a U.S. service member who had been vaccinated against smallpox, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported on Monday (see GSN, Feb. 3).

The service member received his smallpox shot on February 23, 2010. Four days later he participated in wrestling matches, during which the covering over the injection spot fell off. The two men he wrestled against developed skin lesions within several days. One of the men on March 5 wrestled another man, who later exhibited chest skin lesions, according to an April article from the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

One of the infected wrestlers needed to be treated for initial blepharitis in his left eyelid and for erythema.

A 29-year-old woman who lived with the service member also developed facial lesions as well as chills, fever, and other symptoms. Following multiple medical consultations, she was given vaccinia immune globulin, primary study author Gregory Young of the New York state Health Department said.

The VIG treatment eased the physical discomfort caused by lesions within one day. All four infected individuals were determined to have the vaccinia virus — the live virus used to make the smallpox vaccine.

The report authors contend the incident underlines the importance of making sure that military personnel who receive the vaccine are given information regarding possible contact-related vaccinia infections of others (see GSN, May 18, 2007; Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy release, March 28).

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