Patient at Fort Wood was treated for smallpox vaccine reaction

Published: Feb. 21, 2017 at 4:47 PM CST
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A patient at the Fort Leonard Wood hospital recently suffered a reaction to the smallpox vaccine. A spokeswoman for the military installation says the patient does not have smallpox, and there is no threat to the public.

The spokeswoman didn't know on Tuesday afternoon whether the patient was treated and released or was still at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, which serves active military personnel, military retirees, military family members, and some patients not affiliated with the military when space is available.

Smallpox is an infectious disease that killed between 300 million and 500 million people in the 1900s. After vaccination campaigns in the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organization deemed it to be eradicated in 1979. The military, however, still vaccinates personnel who are bound for areas where smallpox attacks are deemed possible — mainly the Middle East.

Here's what the

Centers for Disease Control

says about smallpox vaccine reactions:

The smallpox vaccine prevents smallpox. For most people, it is safe and effective. Most people experience normal, typically mild reactions to the vaccine, which indicate that it is beginning to work. Some people may experience reactions that may require medical attention.

Normal, Typically Mild Reactions

-- These reactions usually go away without treatment:

-- The arm receiving the vaccination may be sore and red where the vaccine was given.

-- The glands in the armpits may become large and sore.

-- The vaccinated person may run a low fever.

-- One out of 3 people may feel bad enough to miss work, school, or recreational activity or have trouble sleeping.

Serious Reactions

In the past, about 1,000 people for every 1 million people vaccinated for the first time experienced reactions that, while not life-threatening, were serious. These reactions may require medical attention:

-- A vaccinia rash or outbreak of sores limited to one area: This is an accidental spreading of the vaccinia virus caused by touching the vaccination site and then touching another part of the body or another person. It usually occurs on the genitals or face, including the eyes, where it can damage sight or lead to blindness. Washing hands with soap and water after touching the vaccine site will help prevent this (inadvertent inoculation).

-- A widespread vaccinia rash: The virus spreads from the vaccination site through the blood. Sores break out on parts of the body away from the vaccination site (generalized vaccinia).

A toxic or allergic rash in response to the vaccine that can take various forms (erythema multiforme).

Life-Threatening Reactions

Rarely, people have had very bad reactions to the vaccine. In the past, between 14 and 52 people per 1 million people vaccinated for the first time experienced potentially life-threatening reactions. These reactions require immediate medical attention:

-- Eczema vaccinatum: Serious skin rashes caused by widespread infection of the skin in people with skin conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis.

-- Progressive vaccinia (or vaccinia necrosum): Ongoing infection of skin with tissue destruction frequently leading to death.

-- Postvaccinal encephalitis: Inflammation of the brain.

People with certain medical conditions — including people with weakened immune systems or certain skin conditions — are more likely to have these reactions and should not get the smallpox vaccine unless they have been exposed to smallpox.

Based on past experience, it is estimated that between 1 and 2 people out of every 1 million people vaccinated may die as a result of life-threatening reactions to the vaccine.

End of information from CDC