Can smallpox infection be prevented? continued...
Also, there is a
smallpox vaccine(What is a PDF document?). It has vaccinia virus in it, which is like the smallpox virus
but safer. If you get the shot before you've been exposed to smallpox, it will
likely protect you for at least 3 to 5 years. And having a second shot later
can protect you for an even longer period of time.
The shot works
even if you don't get it in advance. Most people who get the smallpox shot
within 3 days after they've been exposed to the virus will have no symptoms or
will have symptoms that aren't as severe. Getting a shot 4 to 7 days after
exposure may also help.1
People who have very close contact with a person who has gotten a smallpox vaccine can get an infection from the virus used in the vaccine. The infection usually causes a minor skin rash and is not smallpox. So the site where the smallpox vaccine was given should be covered until the scab falls off.
In the past,
when a smallpox infection was diagnosed, infected people were kept away from
others to prevent the spread of infection. Everyone who might have been exposed
to the virus was then vaccinated. This practice, called ring vaccination,
played a key role in wiping out smallpox. Many experts think it would be better
to carry out ring vaccination before mass vaccination if there were a case
Because there are risks of a serious reaction from the
vaccine, routine smallpox immunization doesn't occur. All children and most
adults in the U.S. today have a chance of getting infected if they are
exposed to the smallpox virus.
Since the September 2001 terrorist
attacks on the U.S., more vaccine has been made. The U.S. government has enough
smallpox vaccine for all Americans in case of an outbreak.1
The smallpox vaccine is recommended for laboratory workers who handle the vaccinia virus, for members of smallpox response teams, and for
certain people in the military. For accurate, up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox.