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For Immediate Release:
February 27, 2003
For more information contact:
Maria Iacobo
213/240-8144 or 213/990-7107/pager

Vaccinia Related Illness Reported in Person
with Contact with Military Vaccinee

“We have seen no adverse reactions related to the County’s smallpox vaccination program nor have there been any reports of transmission to patients or household contacts from vaccinated health care workers nationwide,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer.

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today that they have received notification of a case of eye infection related to the administration of the smallpox vaccine. The patient became ill after close contact with a person vaccinated as a part of the military’s smallpox vaccination program. The person is hospitalized with a Vaccinia-related eye infection in a hospital in Los Angeles County that was confirmed by the LA County DHS Public Health Laboratory yesterday evening. Vaccinia virus was isolated from tissue cultures at the hospital and confirmed by the Public Health Laboratory by specific antibody test staining.

Vaccinia-related eye infection occurs when the Vaccinia virus, used in the smallpox vaccine, is inadvertently transferred to the eye. Vaccinia can be transmitted from a vaccinee’s unhealed vaccination site to other persons by close contact and can lead to the same adverse events as in the vaccinee” said Laurene Mascola, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Department’s Acute Communicable Disease Control (ACDC) Program. The transmission of Vaccinia to contacts occurs in the range of 2-6/100,000 first time vaccinations according to evidence from the 1960’s. No data exists to indicate that vaccinia transmission occurs through the air.

“Correct hand hygiene and vaccination site care prevents the majority of inadvertent inoculations and contact transmissions,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding. All adverse reactions, complications and secondary transmissions are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For additional information on smallpox and smallpox vaccine, access the bioterrorism preparedness website: www.labt.org. Physicians should report any suspect case of an adverse advent in a recently vaccinated person or contact by calling the ACDC unit at 213-240-7941 during the day or 213-974-1234 during nights or weekends. DHS is the second largest public health system in the nation providing direct patient care and public health services for nearly 10 million residents. The system is the major source of medical care for the uninsured and provides the vast majority of all uncompensated and medical care in the county. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health. DHS has an annual budget of $2.9 billion and is governed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.