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Smallpox vaccine causing no ills in the county

April 07, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

None of the 40 Washington County Hospital and Health Department workers voluntarily vaccinated for smallpox in recent months has suffered ill effects, Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel said Friday.

Elsewhere, three people, including a registered nurse in Salisbury, Md., died of heart attacks after getting the smallpox vaccine. They were part of the government's voluntary program to vaccinate health care and emergency workers who would respond in a bioterrorism attack.

Following the deaths, Christoffel called each of Washington County's health care workers who were vaccinated to check on their condition and to ask if they had any history of heart problems. Since none reported ill effects, the county does not anticipate any problems with those workers, he said.

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In response to the deaths, the Washington County Health Department has added heart-related questions to the screening process it uses to decide which volunteers to inoculate, Christoffel said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked all states to develop a plan to have some health care workers vaccinated so they would be immune to the disease in the event of an outbreak and could help treat others. The federal agency has advised against vaccinating anyone at serious risk of heart disease.

Maryland officials, citing the nation's increased terror alert, said the state is continuing the vaccinations in preparation for a potential attack.

The 40 county employees who received vaccinations were part of the first phase of the federal preparedness plan, Christoffel said. In the second phase, an as-yet-undetermined number of people who work for county fire and rescue companies will be vaccinated on a voluntary basis in the next few months.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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