Questions & Answers
Smallpox - Questions and Answers for Household Members and Community Members
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Questions

Laundering Information

  1. I go home every night to my family. What do I need to do with my personal laundry?
  2. How much personal protective equipment do laundry workers need?
  3. My spouse and I sleep in the same bed. How do I care for the bed linens (e.g., sheets, pillow cases)?
  4. You've told us to wash our clothes and linens in hot water and bleach. The bleach will ruin my clothes and linens. Will using just detergent or color-safe bleach be effective?
  5. Hot water will ruin some of my clothes. Can I just use detergent and cold water?
  6. Can I wear dry cleanable clothes?
  7. Are there any environmental effects from the wash water after washing clothes and linen that come into contact with the vaccination site?
  8. I just got a smallpox vaccination. How do I wash my clothes?

Possible Family Member Reactions to the Smallpox Vaccine

  1. What if a family member accidentally develops a small blister or set of blisters or other reaction that might be the result of having contact with vaccine virus from the vaccinated person? What should they do?
  2. What can I do to prevent spreading vaccinia virus to my household pets?
  3. May I visit with friends and family after my smallpox vaccination?
  4. Is it safe for me to be around a child younger than one year old if I get the smallpox vaccination?
  5. I just received the smallpox vaccine. Is it safe for me to sleep in the same bed with my significant other?
  6. My wife is pregnant. Should I receive smallpox vaccine?
  7. I live with someone who has a chronic skin condition (i.e., eczema, acne, psoriasis, etc). Should I receive smallpox vaccine?

After Receiving the Smallpox Vaccination - Bathing

  1. After I take a bath or shower, do I need to sanitize the bathtub before other people in my household use it?
  2. What's the risk of children spreading the vaccinia virus to one another at day care centers if their parents have been vaccinated?
Answers

Laundering Information

  1. I go home every night to my family. What do I need to do with my personal laundry?
    Wear clothing that is washable and launder your clothing separately with hot soapy water (with bleach, if desired). Keep your personal linens separate (e.g., towels) as well, from the rest of the family's.

  2. How much personal protective equipment do laundry workers need?
    If laundry workers wear gloves, this is sufficient protection.

  3. My spouse and I sleep in the same bed. How do I care for the bed linens (e.g., sheets, pillow cases)?
    Be sure to cover your vaccination site while you are in bed with your spouse. Sleeves (preferably long sleeves) and a Band-Aid will suffice. Wash your linen, along with personal towels and washcloths, separately in hot soapy water (with bleach, if possible).

  4. You've told us to wash our clothes and linens in hot water and bleach. The bleach will ruin my clothes and linens. Will using just detergent or color-safe bleach be effective?
    Color-safe bleach is not as powerful a disinfectant as regular bleach. Washing your clothes and linens with detergent in the hottest water possible is a good alternative to using bleach

  5. Hot water will ruin some of my clothes. Can I just use detergent and cold water?
    Cold water alone will not kill the virus if it is on the clothes. But the detergent will. You should try to wear clothing that is washable in hot water, if possible.

  6. Can I wear dry cleanable clothes?
    It is not known if the dry cleaning process will kill the vaccinia virus. Until such data is available, dry cleaning should not be assumed to properly disinfect material contaminated with vaccinia virus. Any cloth material contaminated with vaccinia virus should be laundered in hot water with detergent. Follow with a hot-air drying cycle. If you must wear "dry clean only" clothes, we recommend that you wear a washable shirt and/or a bandage under your "dry clean only" clothing to avoid contact between the clothing and the vaccination site.

  7. Are there any environmental effects from the wash water after washing clothes and linen that come into contact with the vaccination site?
    There are no additional environmental effects from the used water after washing your clothes. The vaccinia virus will be killed and harmless. Used water discharged by your washing machine from your house will be treated at a wastewater treatment plant.

  8. I just got a smallpox vaccination. How do I wash my clothes?
    Always keep your clothes and towels separate from those of your family and other people. Wear clothing that you can wash in the washing machine. Do not share clothes, towels, or toiletries with anyone. If clothes or towels touch your smallpox vaccination site, wash them in hot water with detergent and/or bleach to kill the virus. For more information about taking care of your vaccination site, go to the MILVAX-VHCN website and read the Smallpox Tri-fold Brochure and the Smallpox Vaccine Household Contacts Brochure.

Possible Family Member Reactions to the Smallpox Vaccine

  1. What if a family member accidentally develops a small blister or set of blisters or other reaction that might be the result of having contact with vaccine virus from the vaccinated person? What should they do?
    They should go to their usual source of care (e.g., military clinic) and explain the situation. Mention that the Service member was recently vaccinated against smallpox. For Service members in the Reserve Component, contact the Military Medical Support Office (MMSO) 888-647-6676 if the member is not enrolled in an MTF.

  2. What can I do to prevent spreading vaccinia virus to my household pets?

    There are no restrictions for recently vaccinated people in regards to contact or handling of animals, other than keeping animals away from the vaccination site and bandages that covered it.

    There is no evidence that vaccinia virus infects cats, dogs, or other household pets. The same steps you take to prevent spreading the virus elsewhere on your body or to somebody else (e.g., sleeves, bandages, hand washing) will keep the virus from reaching your pet.



  3. May I visit with friends and family after my smallpox vaccination?
    Yes, you may visit with other people after your smallpox vaccination, but keep your vaccination site covered with both a bandage and a shirt sleeve. Also, wash your hands if you touch your smallpox vaccination site. There are some individuals who you need to be especially careful around. These individuals include those for whom the vaccine is contraindicated: pregnant females, elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions, cancer, immune deficiency diseases, and those on immunosuppressive medications.

  4. Is it safe for me to be around a child younger than one year old if I get the smallpox vaccination?
    If you are in close contact or live with a baby who is younger than one year old, a medical provider will usually recommend deferment of the smallpox vaccination until you report to your mobility/deployment assignment. However, if your commander decides that your vaccination is mission essential prior to deployment, he or she can authorize and arrange separate quarters for you.

  5. I just received the smallpox vaccine. Is it safe for me to sleep in the same bed with my significant other?
    You can sleep in the same bed and continue intimate relationships as long as you make sure the vaccination site is covered and neither of you touch it. Some people have medical conditions that make them more likely to have serious complications if they are infected with the smallpox vaccine virus. In this case, special precautions might be necessary. If you have a question or concern about this, please contact the MILVAX-VHCN.

  6. My wife is pregnant. Should I receive smallpox vaccine?
    You should not receive smallpox vaccine if you will have close contact with a pregnant woman because of the small risk of spreading the vaccine virus to the woman. Fetuses of pregnant women who inadvertently receive the vaccine or receive a contact transmission of the vaccine are at risk for a rare complication called fetal vaccinia. The military offers options for military personnel in these circumstances such as temporary exemption or alternative housing. For further questions, see our pregnancy page or contact the MILVAX-VHCN.

  7. I live with someone who has a chronic skin condition (i.e., eczema, acne, psoriasis, etc). Should I receive smallpox vaccine?
    You should not receive smallpox vaccine if you have close contact with someone who has an atypical skin condition. This is because the virus can spread through direct contact with the vaccination site or fluids, and persons with a history of chronic skin conditions or active skin lesions have higher risks for developing serious health problems related to the smallpox vaccine.

    If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact the MILVAX-VHCN for help.

After Receiving the Smallpox Vaccination - Bathing

  1. After I take a bath or shower, do I need to sanitize the bathtub before other people in my household use it?
    It's not necessary to sanitize the bathtub or the sink after use. You may want to clean any surface that you place a dirty bandage upon with a disinfectant. Pay attention to any surface or object that rubs against your vaccination site.

  2. What's the risk of children spreading the vaccinia virus to one another at day care centers if their parents have been vaccinated?
    We are investing a great deal of effort into training personnel to prevent them from spreading vaccine virus anywhere. If you have received a smallpox vaccination, the risk of passing vaccine virus (vaccinia) to your child is extremely low if you follow the standard precautions (band-aids, long-sleeves, hand washing). Spreading vaccinia from a child of a vaccinee to another child would be even rarer.