A man recently vaccinated for smallpox under a United States Defense Department program passed a related form of the disease on to a person that he had sex with, and that person then passed it on to yet another person according to federal health officials on Thursday.
Known as the vaccinia virus, the virus is used in the smallpox vaccine. According to Dr. Marc Siegel, a clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, "The smallpox vaccine is a live-virus vaccine, and it's not news that it can infect people...". He says that, "It's a different virus; it's a kissing cousin of smallpox," and added that, "It can be transmitted if you are not careful."
The report was published in the March 1 issue of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It describes the case of a 24-year-old from San Diego, California who went to the hospital complaining of a rash, that may have been caused by having sexual contact with a man who had received the smallpox vaccine. The patient also had sores on the anus and lips. A second man, also developed similar sores after having sex with the first patient and sores also developed on the patient's penis and scrotum which were caused by the vaccinia virus.
The vaccinated man was interviewed and confirmed that the first patient was his only sex partner in the two to 30 days after he had been vaccinated. The CDC said that the transmission of the vaccinia virus is not uncommon, especially if the wound left by the vaccine is not kept covered as it heals. The open wound can transfer the virus to other parts of the body and to other people. The CDC report highlights the potential for the virus to be transmitted through sexual contact and reinforces the need to keep the vaccination wound covered.
To read the report in full, see page 145 of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report here: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm6208.pdf
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