An unnamed victim who received a smallpox vaccine passed a mild but annoying rash to his 24-year-old San Diego sex partner — and then the second man passed on the infection to a third. Steven Reinberg for Medical Xpress reported that the third man was impacted seriously enough to require treatment in a hospital before he ultimately recovered.
The smallpox vaccine is one of the great success stories of medical science. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC), the devastating disease has been wiped out of the United States. Routine vaccinations ceased in 1972.
According to the World Health Organization, smallpox was wiped out in the wild in 1977 when the last known case was found in Somalia. The disease was “officially declared eradicated in 1979” to worldwide jubilation. Colette Flight, reporting for the BBC, stated smallpox had killed 300 million people just in the 20th century as well as uncounted more during human history down through the ages.
So the smallpox vaccine is undoubtedly a lifesaver. And it may do even more than protect from just smallpox. Megan Charles recently reported that a genetically modified version of the vaccine may hold promise in the treatment of liver cancer, more than doubling the longevity of patients with a fatal form of the disease from 6.7 months to 14.1 months.
After the 911 and anthrax attacks in fall 2001, the federal government prepared a smallpox response plan in the event of a bio-terror attack. In this case, the man received the smallpox vaccine as part of a US Defense Department program intended to protect those who might be exposed to bio-terror weapons.
The rash transmitted to the two men was not smallpox, and it isn’t possible to transmit smallpox in this way, the CDC told Reinberg. The infection was just a rash, albeit an ugly and miserable one. The CDC added:
“This report, however, highlights the potential for the virus to be transmitted through sexual contact and reinforces the need to keep the vaccination wound covered.”
Most of us will probably never need the smallpox vaccine, but, if we ever do, we’ll make sure to keep the bandage on until the injection site is healed.