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Am J Infect Control. 2004 Oct;32(6):333-6.

The effect of semipermeable dressings on smallpox vaccine site evolution.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234, USA.



Many hospital systems in the United States are contemplating the implementation of a smallpox vaccination program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations recommend use of occlusive dressings over the vaccination site of health care workers in contact with patients. Minimal data are available on the impact of an occlusive dressing on the evolution of the vaccinia inoculation site.


We conducted a prospective observational study in which subjects were instructed to cover their vaccination site with either a semipermeable dressing over gauze or gauze alone. We recorded the duration of semipermeable dressing use and parameters pertaining to vaccination site evolution, to include time until scab separation.


The increased use of a semipermeable dressing is associated with increased time until scab separation (n = 41, r =.48, P =.001 by regression analysis). This analysis predicts a 9-day difference in time until scab separation between patients that wore semipermeable dressings 100% of the time versus not at all. No significant correlation was observed between semipermeable dressing use and size of maximum erythema, time until maximum erythema, size of erythema on day 6 or 8, nor time until pustule formation.


Semipermeable dressing use appears to prolong the time until scab separation and possibly the duration of infectivity and risk of secondary transmission. Health care organizations may wish to consider this information when instituting a smallpox vaccination program.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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