Infection triggered by smallpox vaccine, passed to sex partner
According to a report published in the online issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality, smallpox vaccinated man passes a milder infection to sex partner. The report draws attention to the fact that vaccinia virus can be passed from one person to another, especially if the wound on vaccination is neglected.
Smallpox is a contagious viral infection with high rate of mortality and millions of victims made in the past. In fact, smallpox is the only infectious disease which is known to have been eradicated by the use of smallpox vaccine, and since 1977 there have not been reported any more cases of smallpox. The disease is characterized by generalized maculopapular rash and fluid-filled blisters that burst. These lesions get infected and complications that occur are mainly due to these infections.
The first remedy to treat smallpox infection was variolation, that is inoculation of powdered smallpox scabs to infected individuals. If successful, variolation could eradicate the disease, because it triggered long-lasting immunity. But the method have been abandoned because there was the risk of infection. Over time, people have noticed that the same immunity can be given by the inoculation of material from a cowpox lesion. Cowpox is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox and the inoculation was called vaccine (from the Latin word Vacca). Later, cowpox used in vaccine against smallpox was replaced by another from the same family, but with other genome: the vaccinia virus. So smallpox vaccine does not contain smallpox virus and therefore cannot cause smallpox.
Dr. Marc Siegel, a clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said the smallpox vaccine is a live-virus vaccine and it is known that can cause infections in humans, but not smallpox itself. He added that the virus used in the smallpox vaccine is a kissing cousin of smallpox that can be transmitted in certain circumstances. Because smallpox has been eradicated since 1977, smallpox vaccine is used today only in people who could be involved in acts of bioterrorism.
Recently, a report reveals that a 24-year-old man presented to the hospital for a rash, anal sores and some similar lesions on the lips. The cause incriminated for these symptoms was the sexual contact with a man who had been vaccinated against smallpox. The patient healed without complications, but after this incident there was another man with similar injuries who had contact with the latter. It seems that the lesions were caused by vaccinia virus. Also, the patient was treated and evolution was good, without any complications. The vaccinated man confirmed that the first patient was his only sexual partner within the first 30 days after vaccination.
It is not entirely new that vaccinia virus can be passed from one person to another, especially if the wound left by vaccination, still incompletely closed, is not covered.