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  #1  
Old 08-30-2011, 03:30 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is offline
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Why does the polio vaccine leave a mark on the arm?

Why does the polio vaccine leave a mark/scar on the arm? And, am I right that the mark used to be even bigger? My mother's polio vaccine mark was about the size of a quarter; now they're much smaller.

Other vaccines don't leave marks; why does polio?
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  #2  
Old 08-30-2011, 03:41 AM
Sudden Kestrel Sudden Kestrel is offline
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Here's an ancient thread on the subject. Apparently the consensus is that it was the smallpox vaccine rather than the polio vaccine.

I have one, and when I was a youngster it was about the size of a dime. It's a bit larger now .
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  #3  
Old 08-30-2011, 04:13 AM
jabiru jabiru is offline
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I had the Salk polio vaccine as a child and have no scar from the injection. My BCG scar, however, is quite large and raised.
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  #4  
Old 08-30-2011, 07:51 AM
Lor213 Lor213 is offline
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I've always wondered that about Vaccines. I had all my vaccines as a child and have no scars from them at all, I'm a 30 year old American. My mother has a scar on her arm from her childhood vaccines and she's in her 50's and American as well. My boyfriend, who is Irish and roughly the same age as me, has a vaccine scar as well which is slightly bigger than the one my mother has. I've always wondered which vaccine caused this scar, especially the one my boyfriend has since i don't have one and we're the same age just from different countries. Were the vaccines between Ireland and the USA that different in 1981, interesting for sure.
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Old 08-30-2011, 10:27 AM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
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No cites (I'm sure I could find some, but I'm lazy this morning ), but I'm reasonably certain you are talking smallpox, not polio.
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  #6  
Old 08-30-2011, 10:28 AM
TheBori TheBori is offline
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The scar was the result of the small pox vaccine, not polio. The Polio vaccine, if you recall, can be administered orally (sugar cube). As small pox has been eradicatedm there is need for the vaccine, hence the telltale scar is no longer seen. You must be of a certain age to have the mark.
As for why the scar occured... I believe the injection was sub-cutaneous and the skin ddn't like it.
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  #7  
Old 08-30-2011, 10:34 AM
jabiru jabiru is offline
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Originally Posted by TheBori View Post
The Polio vaccine, if you recall, can be administered orally (sugar cube)....
Sabin is administered orally. Those of us who are old enough were injected with Salk vaccine. It didn't leave a scar, though. Only memories.
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  #8  
Old 08-30-2011, 11:48 AM
naita naita is offline
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Originally Posted by Lor213 View Post
I've always wondered that about Vaccines. I had all my vaccines as a child and have no scars from them at all, I'm a 30 year old American. My mother has a scar on her arm from her childhood vaccines and she's in her 50's and American as well. My boyfriend, who is Irish and roughly the same age as me, has a vaccine scar as well which is slightly bigger than the one my mother has. I've always wondered which vaccine caused this scar, especially the one my boyfriend has since i don't have one and we're the same age just from different countries. Were the vaccines between Ireland and the USA that different in 1981, interesting for sure.
Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979 (the last recorded case of natural infection was in Somalia in 1977) and vaccination stopped a few years before or not long after in various countries, depending on local conditions.

In Norway mandatory vaccination stopped in 1976. I was born in '75 and have the scar, my younger brother in '77 and doesn't. The last vaccinations performed in Norway were in 1980.

ETA: My point being, if it wasn't self evident, that your boyfriend's and your age are in the right time frame for vaccinations to still be performed in some countries and not in others.

Last edited by naita; 08-30-2011 at 11:51 AM..
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  #9  
Old 08-30-2011, 12:02 PM
Nametag Nametag is offline
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The smallpox vaccine is (was) administered by repeated poking with a little forked needle coated in vaccinia virus. The resulting "holes" first swell, then blister and fill with pus. This is what leaves the scar.

The injectable polio vaccine, as noted, does not normally cause scarring.
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  #10  
Old 08-30-2011, 12:38 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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I recall a kind of "vaccine gun" with spinning blades, something like an electric razor.
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  #11  
Old 08-30-2011, 12:53 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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What about the TB vaccine? I have one and there's a scar on my upper thigh. It's smooth and kind of pinkish. Is there anything creepy about the way that vaccine is administered?
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  #12  
Old 08-30-2011, 01:00 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nametag View Post
The smallpox vaccine is (was) administered by repeated poking with a little forked needle coated in vaccinia virus. The resulting "holes" first swell, then blister and fill with pus. This is what leaves the scar.
That was the method used to eradicate it, since it was simple and easy. But before that, they'd put a drop of the vaccine on your arm and then scratch the skin with a sewing needle or pin (sterilized, of course). The site would develop a pustule that would fade after a few days, and leave a scar.
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  #13  
Old 08-30-2011, 01:51 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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Testing revealed that only a minimal amount of scratching/poking was necessary to perform an effective innoculation of the smallpox vaccine. That's why you'll see some people with big honkin' scars, others with small ones.

Then too, some individuals develop keloids in scar tissue, so all scars are larger than the original wounds.

TB is not a vaccine, it is a test to see if your body is sensitized to the TB bacterium. A small amount of the TB bacteria would be deposited under the skin. A reaction would indicate that at some time, the person had been exposed to TB. It does not indicate an active infection, and it will always show positive, for the rest of your life.

As with the smallpox vaccination, it was discovered that much less material was needed for a definitive test. The test evolved from a syringe and needle actually injecting a small pocket under the skin, to a tablet-sized device that contained four mini-needles that barely pierced the skin.

Many people had a bit of scar tissue develop from where the needle was injected. It wasn't indicative of a positive reaction, it was just the response to the injury of the needle piercing.


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  #14  
Old 08-30-2011, 06:23 PM
Kiwi Fruit Kiwi Fruit is offline
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The TB test used in NZ had a multineedled device that was sprung against your skin, a bit like a stapler but it barely scratched the surface. Any resulting inflammation or swelling indicated previous exposure to TB but not necessarily an active disease. My skin reacted, possibly because as a farm kid, I drank non-pasteurised milk and was exposed to bovine TB.
The BCG inoculation was by subcutaneous injection which was what caused the pustule and subsequent scarring. I remember it taking several weeks to heal and of course the site was a target for nasty schoolboy attacks because it hurt so much if it was hit.

Last edited by Kiwi Fruit; 08-30-2011 at 06:24 PM.. Reason: BCG
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  #15  
Old 08-30-2011, 06:32 PM
Kiwi Fruit Kiwi Fruit is offline
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Originally Posted by Kiwi Fruit View Post
The TB test used in NZ had a multineedled device that was sprung against your skin, a bit like a stapler but it barely scratched the surface.
Wiki research indicates this was the Tine test. The device used is slightly different from that illustrated here.
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  #16  
Old 08-30-2011, 08:04 PM
TheChileanBlob TheChileanBlob is offline
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Just adding that my older kids, now 25 and 23, had the oral polio vaccine as babies. By the time my now-ten-year-old came along, they had switched (back) to an injection. Apparently the oral vaccine used live virus and carried a small risk of polio infection. The shot uses a killed virus.
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  #17  
Old 08-30-2011, 11:05 PM
Lor213 Lor213 is offline
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Originally Posted by naita View Post
Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979 (the last recorded case of natural infection was in Somalia in 1977) and vaccination stopped a few years before or not long after in various countries, depending on local conditions.

In Norway mandatory vaccination stopped in 1976. I was born in '75 and have the scar, my younger brother in '77 and doesn't. The last vaccinations performed in Norway were in 1980.

ETA: My point being, if it wasn't self evident, that your boyfriend's and your age are in the right time frame for vaccinations to still be performed in some countries and not in others.
I was told today his was from the BCG vaccine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacillu...losis_vaccines

I didn't know such things existed.
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  #18  
Old 08-31-2011, 12:00 AM
LavenderBlue LavenderBlue is offline
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Do they still use the smallpox in the US military? I've heard that they do from a friend of a friend.
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  #19  
Old 08-31-2011, 12:35 AM
SeaDragonTattoo SeaDragonTattoo is offline
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My mom told me that my pediatrician thought I was such a beautiful baby that he didn't want me to have a vaccine scar on my arm. So he administered the vaccine in a butt cheek instead. I never looked around back there thoroughly enough to find the scar. This would have been about 1971. I'm sure he wasn't the only doctor to do this, so I would bet that's why not everyone of age to have one, doesn't have one that's obvious.
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  #20  
Old 08-31-2011, 01:02 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naita View Post
Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979 (the last recorded case of natural infection was in Somalia in 1977) and vaccination stopped a few years before or not long after in various countries, depending on local conditions.

In Norway mandatory vaccination stopped in 1976. I was born in '75 and have the scar, my younger brother in '77 and doesn't. The last vaccinations performed in Norway were in 1980.

ETA: My point being, if it wasn't self evident, that your boyfriend's and your age are in the right time frame for vaccinations to still be performed in some countries and not in others.
Read The Demon in the Freezer, if you think smallpox is not still a threat. It was eradicated in the public domain, but strains were kept alive in weapons labs in both the Soviet Union and the USA. Weaponized smallpox was (and possibly still is) a very real threat. The smallpox vax you were given as a child has been ineffective for a very long time, since it only protects you for about five years. People who work in labs where contamination is a possibility get boosters every year.
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  #21  
Old 08-31-2011, 01:29 AM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
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Originally Posted by naita View Post
<snip>

In Norway mandatory vaccination stopped in 1976. I was born in '75 and have the scar, my younger brother in '77 and doesn't. The last vaccinations performed in Norway were in 1980.<snip>
My two older sisters were born in '63 and '64 and they both got the vaccination. I was born in '66 and I didn't. I've always kind of wished I had it, but if it doesn't last anyway, I guess it doesn't matter.
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  #22  
Old 08-31-2011, 03:07 AM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
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My mother had an inch wide smallpox vaccination mark the outside of her thigh, about four inches above her knee. They put it there so "it would never show."

I have been vaccinated for small pox seven times, and never got a scar. Twice I was vaccinated because I had no scar. (I changed school systems rather a lot.) I have always believed that I originally gained a very strong immunity to smallpox because my mother got vaccinated while pregnant with me. I have been told that that is unlikely, but I have never had so much as a sore arm from them.

Tris
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  #23  
Old 08-31-2011, 03:10 AM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Read The Demon in the Freezer, if you think smallpox is not still a threat. It was eradicated in the public domain, but strains were kept alive in weapons labs in both the Soviet Union and the USA. Weaponized smallpox was (and possibly still is) a very real threat. The smallpox vax you were given as a child has been ineffective for a very long time, since it only protects you for about five years. People who work in labs where contamination is a possibility get boosters every year.
Actually, although the protection is much reduced over decades, there is some reason to believe that survival, as opposed to immunity is still somewhat improved even thirty or forty years after initial vaccination.

Tris
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  #24  
Old 08-31-2011, 03:26 AM
needscoffee needscoffee is offline
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My daughter, born in 1995, was vaccinated against smallpox in the Philippines as an infant.
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  #25  
Old 08-31-2011, 09:04 AM
Bartman Bartman is offline
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Do they still use the smallpox in the US military? I've heard that they do from a friend of a friend.
I believe so, yes. http://www.smallpox.mil/
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  #26  
Old 08-31-2011, 09:45 AM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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Originally Posted by VOW View Post

TB is not a vaccine, it is a test to see if your body is sensitized to the TB bacterium. A small amount of the TB bacteria would be deposited under the skin. A reaction would indicate that at some time, the person had been exposed to TB. It does not indicate an active infection, and it will always show positive, for the rest of your life.
Are you saying there's no such thing as a TB vaccine? Because I know I've had it. I've also had the test where I tested positive because I'd already been vaccinated.
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Old 08-31-2011, 10:27 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Originally Posted by Triskadecamus View Post
Actually, although the protection is much reduced over decades, there is some reason to believe that survival, as opposed to immunity is still somewhat improved even thirty or forty years after initial vaccination.

Tris
Perhaps, but those who work with such things create newer and more lethal strains. The descriptions of smallpox death in the book I cited are the stuff of nightmares.
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  #28  
Old 08-31-2011, 10:44 AM
Washoe Washoe is offline
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Originally Posted by SeaDragonTattoo View Post
So he administered the vaccine in a butt cheek instead. I never looked around back there thoroughly enough to find the scar. This would have been about 1971. I'm sure he wasn't the only doctor to do this, so I would bet that's why not everyone of age to have one, doesn't have one that's obvious.
Now that I know what it is (specifically smallpox), I’ll start sporting mine with pride. Mine’s gone, though—it’s almost invisible now. I can feel a slight bumpiness at the injection sites, but that’s about it. I was born in ’61 and mine has always been about the size of a dime. It was quite pronounced when I was younger. I was told that soon after I was born it became more routine to stick it on an ass cheek. I know when I was a teenager a few people asked me "dude—what's that thing on your arm?"

Everybody who has their smallpox scar on their ass should get together, go to an anti-vax rally, and simultaneously shove them in Jenny McCarthy’s face.
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  #29  
Old 08-31-2011, 02:35 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Do they still use the smallpox in the US military? I've heard that they do from a friend of a friend.
Yes. I got mine in 2005 and I presume nothing has changed since then. They prick you a little and then wait two or three days to see if it gets infected. If not, they prick you a lot to make sure you get it. The injection site fills with puss to a dime-sized blister. That eventually pops a week later, drains, and heals into a scar.
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  #30  
Old 08-31-2011, 03:04 PM
irishgirl irishgirl is offline
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May I correct some factual inaccuracies in previous posts please?

BCG is a vaccine for TB.
It is given INTRADERMALLY (ID), not subcutaneously (SC) like insulin, or intramuscularly (IM) like most other vaccinations.
If given correctly it will blister and scar for most people.
If given too deep (IM or SC), it probably won't work and may cause an abscess. It requires more skill than a usual vaccination to give correctly.
BCG protection lasts for about 10 years, and can cause false positive reactions to TB tests.

The TB test uses a skin prick- variations include Mantoux and Heaf.
Even if positive, they won't scar permanently.

I had a BCG, which did blister and scar initially, but which has now faded
and have had 3 Mantoux tests in the last 10 years.

The UK has removed BCG from routine childhood immunisations schedule at age 12, instead offering it at birth to infants thought to be at risk (ethnicity, household contacts with TB, etc). Those at high risk of contracting TB through occupation etc (healthcare workers, the homeless) are offered it opportunistically.

Oral polio vaccine, which uses a live vaccine, and posesa potential risk of infection with Polio to unvaccinated people handling the faeces of a recently vaccinated person (e.g. parents changing nappies, or cleaning up after a small child of potty-training age) has been replaced with injectable inactivated polio vaccines.

Polio vaccination doesn't scar.
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  #31  
Old 08-31-2011, 06:16 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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Originally Posted by Freudian Slit View Post
Are you saying there's no such thing as a TB vaccine? Because I know I've had it. I've also had the test where I tested positive because I'd already been vaccinated.
It's generally not used in the US (see above link on the topic), so I'm not surprised about the lack of awareness.
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  #32  
Old 08-31-2011, 06:33 PM
Kiwi Fruit Kiwi Fruit is offline
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Originally Posted by irishgirl View Post
May I correct some factual inaccuracies in previous posts please?

BCG is a vaccine for TB.
It is given INTRADERMALLY (ID), not subcutaneously (SC) like insulin,
Thanks. I came back here to correct my incorrect assertion that the BCG vaccination was subcutaneous.
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  #33  
Old 08-31-2011, 10:25 PM
redtail23 redtail23 is offline
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I get TB tested yearly. They do the syringe injection thing, not a skinprick. Interestingly, they've never offered the vaccine as far as I've heard. Even though many of my co-workers are definitely at risk (direct patient care).
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  #34  
Old 09-01-2011, 12:37 PM
irishgirl irishgirl is offline
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I have been offered the BCG (no scar and negative Mantoux)- I've declined it.

My reasoning is thus:

I have been exposed to plenty of TB and haven't got it yet!
I spent 4 weeks n India draining TB abscesses and giving directly observed TB therapy.
If I haven't got it yet, I'm probably not going to.

My BCG did scar initially and then faded, I have no reason to believe a second one would act differently, and I might be in the same boat again in 15 years time.
A new BCG would only protect me for 10 years at most.
It may not even give me protection at all (some studies show 40% or more of vaccinated people get no protection from the vaccine).
A new BCG could potentially confuse any future Mantoux readings.
BCG offers no protection at all from the multi-drug resistant strains.

As it stands I know that if I am exposed to TB and test positive it is a true positive and I can get prompt treatment.
I'm OK with that, given that I now work in General Practice and see patients for 10-20 minutes at a time, minimising my risk of exposure considerably compared to hospital work.

YMMV, depending on personal risk of exposure , your own level of risk-aversion and your personal comfort level dealing with medical uncertainty (i.e. I'm OK with not being vaccinated and the risk of catching TB- you might not be- in which case, get a BCG).
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  #35  
Old 09-01-2011, 01:55 PM
DrCube DrCube is online now
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I got a smallpox vaccine in 2003 before I went to Iraq. They use a long tattoo-like needle and poke you in the shoulder about 10 times. Over the next week or so, a big puss-filled sore develops on the spot, which eventually turns black and heals, leaving the scar.

I'm unsure why they have to do it this way as opposed to just sticking you with a syringe like most vaccines. Does anybody know if the smallpox vaccine still uses cowpox, like Jenner's? If not, what's the sore all about?
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  #36  
Old 09-01-2011, 02:05 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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It's generally not used in the US (see above link on the topic), so I'm not surprised about the lack of awareness.
Yeah. I was in the UAE (where I spent a bit of time growing up) when I got mine. I guess most people living in the United States wouldn't have had one.
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Old 09-01-2011, 03:17 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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Generally, healthcare workers in the US (I'm one) undergo yearly TB testing - either blood-based or Mantoux; we use the latter where I work. I think those with positive tests (current or past) get a chest x-ray to confirm the negative status. I've personally known two healthcare workers (a pediatric nurse and an ophthalmic tech) who had positive Mantoux tests and had to do the x-rays.

I'd rather do the blood tests. It seems like half the time I get the Mantoux, it's not raised, but the pink color change is visible on my super-pale skin for weeks.
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  #38  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:47 PM
Clothahump Clothahump is offline
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Originally Posted by jabiru View Post
Sabin is administered orally. Those of us who are old enough were injected with Salk vaccine. It didn't leave a scar, though. Only memories.
Yeah. I remember bawling like crazy because I was getting a shot. My mom was bawling like crazy because I wasn't going to get polio. My sister came down with it about two years before Salk came out with the vaccine and it nearly killed her. She's walked with a severe limp ever since.
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Old 09-01-2011, 10:59 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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Generally, healthcare workers in the US (I'm one) undergo yearly TB testing - either blood-based or Mantoux; we use the latter where I work. I think those with positive tests (current or past) get a chest x-ray to confirm the negative status. I've personally known two healthcare workers (a pediatric nurse and an ophthalmic tech) who had positive Mantoux tests and had to do the x-rays.
I remember as a teen having the Mantoux test as a kid. I tested positive because of my vaccine as a child but I still had to go get the x-rays done.
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  #40  
Old 09-02-2011, 12:20 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is offline
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fascinating responses - thanks, everyone.
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  #41  
Old 09-02-2011, 12:38 AM
LavenderBlue LavenderBlue is offline
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I believe so, yes. http://www.smallpox.mil/
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Originally Posted by Chessic Sense View Post
Yes. I got mine in 2005 and I presume nothing has changed since then. They prick you a little and then wait two or three days to see if it gets infected. If not, they prick you a lot to make sure you get it. The injection site fills with puss to a dime-sized blister. That eventually pops a week later, drains, and heals into a scar.
Thanks.

Please forgive me if this is a really stupid question but where do they get the smallpox vaccine from? Are they still making it? Is it mandatory? Do people in the military ever get actual smallpox? The disease was eliminated in the late 1970's if I remember correctly. Have they refined the process since? Because the smallpox vaccine was very dangerous. Of all the vaccines ever dreamed up that one really scares me. Granted smallpox scares any normal person even more but that vaccine is rather dangerous.

Thank you so much!
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  #42  
Old 09-02-2011, 02:28 PM
irishgirl irishgirl is offline
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TB is tricksy.

Most people exposed to it are able to fully overcome the bacteria.

Some people are only partially successful- they have no symptoms but may have some live TB bacteria in their bodies. They are not infectious, and have normal Chest Xrays. They are classed as having Latent TB . The only sign of this is a positive Mantoux or Heaf test.

Some people are unable to overcome the bacteria at all.
They have the symptoms of TB (cough, sweats, weight loss etc), chest Xray changes and are infectious.

The risk is that about 10% of people with Latent TB will develop active TB and become unwell and infectious at a later point in their life should their immune system weaken (due to HIV, age, cancer, chemotherapy etc).

It is important to find out whether someone has active or latent TB before treating them- as active TB requires more medications for a longer period of time to be adequately treated.

Of course, here in Ireland we also have the other group of people- the" burned out" TB- generally very elderly people with abnormal chest xrays who had TB many years ago, but who have overcome it by themselves and aren't unwell or infectious any longer. We test them to make sure they don't have active TB, and then treat them only if they want it.
Most don't.
But we're talking about people over 75 here- the chances of dying of re-activated TB are generally much less than the chance of dying from whatever reason made us give them the chest Xray in the first place...

Last edited by irishgirl; 09-02-2011 at 02:29 PM..
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  #43  
Old 09-02-2011, 02:37 PM
VOW VOW is offline
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Smallpox vaccine as a rule isn't dangerous. You might be thinking of anthrax.

Google Smallpox and Edward Jenner. Jenner was a physician who overheard the maids talking about coxpox, a rather non-threatening disease that infected cattle, and was often transmitted to the working class. The maids were sharing old wives' tales that people who had had cowpox never suffered from smallpox. Bottom line, Dr Jenner began inoculating his patients with cowpox, and thus discovered a treatment that stopped the epidemic smallpox.

FYI, there are MANY "pox" diseases throughout the world. Some are minor, some are deadly. Smallpox was spread through exploration and travel, and it killed many and badly disfigured any who survived the sickness. Jenner's discovery was truly a step in the direction of modern preventative medicine.


~VOW
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