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Sex With Recent Smallpox Vaccine Recipient Can Lead to Illness
Date:7/1/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- After having sex with a soldier recently vaccinated against smallpox, a young woman in Washington state developed an illness caused by the vaccinia virus used in the shot, U.S. health officials report.

This type of viral transmission, while rare, is not unheard of, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The patient visited an urgent care clinic with painful, ring-shaped vaginal swelling," explained Andrea McCollum, an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the CDC. "A few days before that, she had sexual contact with her boyfriend who was a recent smallpox vaccinee via the military."

Although smallpox is now almost eradicated, U.S. military personnel have been vaccinated in recent years as a precaution against the potential use of the virus in a biological attack. The smallpox vaccine comes in the form of a live vaccine, so there is always some risk of infection, McCollum said. "The vaccine is not smallpox virus," she stressed, "but it's a closely related virus called vaccinia."

Although the woman told her doctor about her possible exposure to smallpox vaccine via sexual contact with her recently vaccinated boyfriend, the doctor tested her for common STDs but did not test for vaccinia, according to the report published in the July 1 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Despite taking the antibiotics and antiviral medications that the doctor had prescribed, the woman continued having lesions and pain for the next three days, McCollum said.

A second doctor then sent her to an infectious disease specialist who confirmed that she had the vaccinia virus.

Vaccinia is relatively mild compared to smallpox, and the woman did not need any specific treatment. She did suffer some pain, soreness and irritation, which eventually resolved, McCollum said.<
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