Lab worker, 26, accidentally injects herself with smallpox virus

Lab worker, 26, accidentally injects herself with smallpox virus

A lab worker has revealed what happened to her finger after she accidentally injected herself with the smallpox virus.

The 26-year-old made the blunder while experimenting with mice. The unidentified woman from San Diego accidentally prodded her finger with the vaccinia virus while injecting mice as part of an experiment. Although it is not the smallpox virus, the vaccinia virus is closely related - close enough that it is used to vaccinate people against the potentially deadly smallpox disease.

The woman immediately rinsed her finger with water before being rushed to the emergency room, an account of the incident published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), revealed.

Pictured below is the effect that the virus had on her finger over a ten-day period:

A finger after being infected with the smallpox virus. Credit: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report / CDC

When the woman's symptoms didn't begin to wane after 12 days, she was given a course of the antiviral drug, tecovirimat, for two weeks and antibiotics so that a bacterial infection didn't form in her wound.

In addition to this, a single dose of vaccinia immune globulin was administered. This is made from antibodies created by those already vaccinated against the disease.

A finger infected with smallpox virus. Credit: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report / CDC

According to the report, prior to beginning her work, the woman was offered the smallpox vaccine but declined, fearing the "extent of infection that could occur" and potential side effects, medics revealed.

"Although the patient had declined vaccination when it was initially offered, during this investigation she reported that she did not appreciate the extent of infection that could occur with VACV when vaccination was first offered," the authors wrote.

After the last major outbreak of smallpox in 1972, vaccinations have almost completely eradicated the disease.