Medicine: Turning a Leaf

A poison ivy vaccine is near

Fire fighters battling brushfires in Southern California's Los Padres National Forest have long had to cope with an occupational hazard beyond that of smoke and flames: poison oak, the Western cousin of poison ivy. Not only do they risk coming into contact with the vine, but they also breathe in fumes from its burning leaves, often resulting in infections of the eyes, throat and lungs, as well as rashes and itching skin. "It's almost everywhere," says Forest Service Researcher Jerry Oltman. "It's a real problem."

Every year Americans from gardeners to hikers groan and curse at...

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