Two women, not vaccinated for smallpox, develop eye infections from vaccine
By Associated Press, 3/6/2003 18:17
WASHINGTON (AP) Two women developed infections after touching soldiers who had been vaccinated against smallpox and then touching their eyes.
Both illnesses were preventable. Health authorities are reminding people who get the shot to keep the spot where they were inoculated covered and to
avoid touching the skin and the bandages that cover it.
Even people who have not been vaccinated can become ill if they touch the inoculation site of someone who was.
Both women are recovering and not expected to have permanent scars.
The first case involves a 26-year-old woman from the Los Angeles area who slept in the same bed several times a week with a man vaccinated in the
military's program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. The man often left his vaccination site uncovered, the CDC was
The woman was hospitalized and treated with vaccine immune globulin, which can counteract the most serious reactions to the vaccine.
In the second case, an 18-year-old woman handled the bandage of a man vaccinated in the military program. She developed lesions on her arms and then
swelling in her eye. The CDC did not say where she lives.
This brings to three the number of moderate-to-severe reactions among civilians as a result of smallpox vaccinations. Last week, the CDC reported that
a 39-year-old Florida nurse appeared to have a rash called generalized vaccinia.
The smallpox vaccine is made with a live virus called vaccinia, which can cause illness if it escapes the inoculation site and infects another part of
the body. Vaccinia can also infect those who come into contact with people who have been vaccinated.
The CDC also reported three other serious illnesses since the program began, for a total of four, though all of them are not necessarily related to
the vaccinations. The new cases were a women with a headache and dizziness, a man with high blood pressure and a severe headache and a woman whose
gall bladder was removed because of an acute inflammation.
In addition, the CDC reported 21 nonserious events, including fever, pain and rash, for a total of 46 since the program began.