Los Angeles County Adult Hospitalized for Infection Related to Contact with Smallpox Vaccine Recipient
A Los Angeles County adult has been hospitalized for an eye infection contracted through "close contact" with a participant in the national smallpox vaccination program, the Los Angeles Times reports. The patient is the first in California hospitalized as a result of an adverse reaction to the smallpox vaccine since the national plan began on Jan. 24. County health officials said that the "patient's condition was improving" but did not release the name or gender of the patient over privacy concerns; they also did not release the name of the hospital or information about the treatment that the patient received, the Times reports. County Director of Public Health Dr. Jonathan Fielding said, "We really don't know how it happened," but added, "What's important is they had direct contact with the person, rather than this being something that was just in the air." The smallpox vaccine is manufactured with a live virus -- the vaccinia virus -- that in some cases can spread to other parts of the body or to other individuals by "touching a vaccination site before it has healed or by touching bandages, clothing or other material contaminated with the live virus," the Times reports. According to the CDC, the vaccinia virus spreads in 20 to 60 individuals per one million who receive the smallpox vaccination for the first time. Fielding said that "common-sense precautions" such as "frequent hand-washing" serve as the most effective steps to prevent vaccinia transmission (Richardson, Los Angeles Times, 3/1). The CDC announced last week that three Florida health care workers who received the smallpox vaccine reported adverse reactions with a suspected link to the vaccine. Five serious adverse reactions have occurred among the more than 100,000 military personnel who have received the vaccine (AP/New York Times, 3/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.