Preventing Smallpox Vaccine Spread

Preventing the spread of the virus used in the smallpox vaccine can be accomplished by paying attention to and taking care of the vaccination site. Some suggestions for preventing smallpox vaccine spread include covering the area with a gauze bandage, washing your hands with soap and water if you touch the site, and not allowing others to come into contact with anything that has touched your vaccination site (including bandages, clothes, and sheets).

An Overview of Preventing Smallpox Vaccine Spread

The virus used in the smallpox vaccine (vaccinia virus) is alive. It can be spread from the vaccination site to other parts of your body or to other people through close physical contact. This can happen until the scab falls off.
 
In the past, the vaccine virus was spread from vaccinated people to others about 2 to 6 times out of every 100,000 people vaccinated for the first time (this usually happened between people who lived together).
 

Suggestions for Preventing Smallpox Vaccine Spread

Follow the suggestions below to help prevent the spread of the virus following smallpox vaccination:
 
  • Cover the area loosely with a gauze bandage held in place with first aid tape. While at work, healthcare workers should also cover the gauze with a semi-permeable bandage (this type of bandage allows air to flow through but not fluids).
     
  • Change the bandage often (at least every 3 days).
     
  • Try not to touch your vaccination site.
     
  • Do not let others touch the site or the items that have come in contact with it, such as bandages, clothes, sheets, or towels.
     
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand wash if you touch the site, or if you touch bandages, clothes, sheets, or towels that have touched the site.
     
  • Keep the vaccination site dry. If the gauze bandage gets wet, change it right away. Cover your vaccination site with a waterproof bandage while bathing.
     
  • Don't scratch or put ointment on the vaccination site.
     
  • Don't touch your eyes, any part of your body, or another person after changing the bandage; do not touch the vaccination site until you have washed your hands.
     
  • Wear a shirt that covers the vaccination site and bandage. This helps protect those you have close contact with, such as young children or the person you share a bed with.
     
  • Don't share towels.
     
  • Do your own laundry. Use a separate laundry hamper for clothes, towels, sheets, and other items that may come into contact with your vaccination site or pus from the site. Machine wash items that have touched the vaccination site in hot water with detergent and/or bleach.
     
  • Put used bandages in plastic zip bags, then throw them away in the regular trash.
     
  • After the scab falls off, put it in a plastic zip bag and throw it away.
     
If you do not feel like you can follow these instructions, do not get vaccinated.
 
5 Tips to Keep a Cold at Bay

Smallpox Vaccination

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