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Smallpox Vaccine: CDC Reports Heart Complications

May 12, 2003 |

Unexpected complications from the smallpox vaccine have caused the government to rethink its smallpox prevention strategy.

CDC discovered a disturbing trend, a rise in heart problems in folks military and civilian who had received the smallpox vaccine.

It’s called pericarditis severe inflammation of the heart tissue. Seven civilians and a dozen military have been diagnosed. Symptoms can mimic a heart attack with chest pain and shortness of breath. For now, no one in South Texas has had the problem. Metro Health says they have only had one minor vaccine-related side effect.

Vigorous surveillance by CDC identified all of these cases. New guidelines warn that adults with any kind of heart problem should skip the vaccine. This includes past heart attack, heart failure, or any symptoms of coronary artery disease like chest pain (angina) or shortness of breath.

Although it's still too early to blame the smallpox vaccine for all these heart problems, CDC cautions that those at-risk should wait until we know more.

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