Less Lethal Cousin of Smallpox Arrives in U.S.
Monkeypox, a viral disease related to smallpox but less infectious and less deadly, has been detected for the first time in the Americas, with at least 23 cases reported in three Midwestern states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday. Wisconsin reported 18 cases (15 suspected and 3 confirmed); Illinois reported four (one confirmed); and Indiana reported a single case. The patients ranged in age from 4 to 48 and became ill from May 15 to June 3. All had had direct or close contact with ill prairie dogs, which have become a fad in the exotic-pet market and which might have caught monkeypox from another species, possibly Gambian giant pouched rats; the rats are imported as pets from West or Central Africa, where the disease has long occurred. Monkeypox in Africa is carried mainly by squirrels but named after monkeys because it often kills them. Several patients in the American outbreak work for veterinarians or pet stores that sold prairie dogs and Gambian rats. No patients have died and four have been hospitalized. Laboratory tests performed at the disease centers in Atlanta yesterday confirmed that the patients had been infected with the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same orthopox family that includes the virus that causes smallpox. Full Story