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

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However, "we were quite concerned that she might transmit it to her household contacts," McCollum said, because one of her roommates had had a kidney transplant. The transplant patient was immunosuppressed and taking a lot of medication. "A vaccinia virus infection, particularly in an immunosuppressed individual, can be very serious and life-threatening," McCollum noted.

McCollum noted that there have been other cases of this infection transmitted from smallpox-vaccinated individuals to others. "At CDC, we don't know about every case of vaccinia that occurs," she said.

Including this case, the CDC is aware of five similar cases occurring over the past year, she said. "All the cases were women presenting with genital lesions that had had recent sexual contact exposure to military vaccinees."

In addition to military personnel, others who are vaccinated include some health care workers and laboratory personnel who work with the virus, McCollum said.

In terms of immunizations generally, McCollum said the danger of transmitting a virus via a recent vaccination is present with vaccines that contain what's known as live virus. Most vaccines -- including most childhood and flu vaccines -- are made from the killed virus, and therefore pose no such danger, she said.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University in New York City, said that "smallpox vaccine being a live virus, there is a two-to-three-week period when you are still infectious from the vaccination site and you have to be very careful to cover it."

The oral polio vaccine is another live-attenuated vaccine, which has in very rare instances been associated with causing polio, Siegel noted.

However, the vast majority of vaccines utilize killed virus so this is not a problem with them, he reiterated. "One exception is the inhaled flu vaccine. You could transmit influenza in a very weakened form to an imm
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