Woman contracts smallpox from recently vaccinated man

In the state of Washington, a woman in her 20s has reportedly been infected with smallpox after having sexual relations with her boyfriend in the military who had recently been vaccinated for smallpox.

There have been five known cases in the last year of women in four states acquiring the vaccinia virus, which is the virus found in the smallpox vaccine, after having sexual contact with members of the military, the Centers for Disease Control’s July 2 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report stated.

The vaccination site of a recently inoculated person generally remains infectious for two to three weeks after vaccination and inadvertent inoculation to another part of the body or to another person can occur during this period. The CDC encourages education be given to vaccinees about the potential for sexual transmission. People with weakened immune systems, a history of dermatological conditions and pregnant women are at risk of facing complications from vaccinia infection.

The Washington state woman had a history of eczema as a child, but, when she sought out medical treatment, was only tested for common sexually transmitted diseases, despite voicing concern about her boyfriend’s recent smallpox vaccination. She complained of painful areas of vaginal swelling, several sores and a swollen lymph node over several visits to separate clinics before seeing an infectious diseases specialist who tested for vaccinia.

Health care providers are not required to nationally notify in the case of positive vaccinia testing but are encouraged to report such findings to the CDC.