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Smallpox Vaccine Causes Rare Complications

A Chicago boy contracted a life-threatening case of the vaccinia virus -- a virus similar to smallpox -- after his father, a soldier, received the smallpox vaccine. The NewsHour reports on doctors' and the military's efforts to prevent and treat this rare complication.

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  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour Correspondent:

    At the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital, strict quarantine procedures were in place behind these doors for a 2-year-old boy whose illness started out as a medical mystery. Pediatrician John Marcinak coordinated the child's care.

  • DR. JOHN MARCINAK, Pediatrician:

    The main concern from our standpoint was that the child was very ill. He had a great deal of lesions all over his body, and we were concerned for his health.


    Pediatric dermatologist Sarah Stein was one of the first to see the young patient, who was known to have had eczema in the past.

  • DR. SARAH STEIN, Pediatric Dermatologist:

    When he was first admitted, we thought he had underlying severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis, complicated by a secondary infection.


    After being admitted to the hospital, he kept getting worse. All sorts of illnesses were considered.


    And we said, "Wow, these blister vesicles are not very classic for herpes. Now they're looking bigger, puffier, all the same, all in the same stage of development." And that was just very unusual. And we looked at each other, and we said that, "Could this be smallpox?"