Vaccinia virus ophthalmic infections

Vaccinia Virus Ophthalmic Infections

Vaccinia virus is a poxvirus primarily found in cattle and is the virus used in the smallpox vaccine. Ocular or eye infection with vaccinia virus is rare, but can be very serious and cause permanent vision loss or even blindness in some cases. It is most commonly seen in those who have recently received a smallpox vaccine or those that have had contact with someone who did.

Since the 1980s, the number of reported cases of ocular vaccinia have decreased significantly due to the limited vaccination campaigns and improved hygienic practices. Cases are now typically seen in individuals who have direct contact with the virus or contaminated material.

Symptoms and Complications

Common symptoms of ocular vaccinia can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain
  • Photophobia (or sensitivity to light)
  • Redness and swelling of the eye
  • Watery eyes

If left untreated, vaccinia virus ocular infection can lead to more serious complications such as keratitis, uveitis, or even corneal scarring. In more severe cases, the virus can cause corneal perforation, resulting in pain, compromised vision, and in severe cases, even blindness. Other potential complications of ophthalmic vaccinia can include orbital cellulitis, endophthalmitis, retinal detachment, and vision loss.

Risk Factors and Prevention

These are some of the factors that may increase your risk of developing ophthalmic vaccinia:

  • Recent smallpox vaccination
  • Contact of a family member or healthcare provider with the virus
  • Receiving the virus through a laboratory accident
  • Close contact with people with active infection
  • Direct exposure to contaminated materials

The risk of developing ophthalmic vaccinia is lower in countries where the smallpox vaccine is rarely used, as the virus is not as widely circulated. To prevent the spread of vaccinia virus and reduce your risk of exposure, practice good hand hygiene and keep your home and work areas clean and free of infected materials. If you are exposed to vaccinia virus, always seek prompt medical attention to identify and treat the infection as soon as possible.