19 sick from Monkeypox virus

Published June 9, 2003

WASHINGTON, June 8: US health authorities on Sunday urged the public to be vigilant about an outbreak of a potentially fatal smallpox-like virus that has infected at least 19 people in the midwestern United States.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged doctors and other health care providers to be on the lookout for new cases of monkeypox, a rare African virus that has sickened 17 people in Wisconsin, at least one person in Illinois, and another in Indiana since mid-May.

Those who fell ill were sickened after handling prairie dogs sold as pets. They reported fever, sweats, chills, cough and a blistering rash. All are recovering, although four of the patients are in hospital.

The outbreak is the first documented case of monkeypox in the western hemisphere. The virus is usually found only in African rainforests.

“CDC is advising physicians, veterinarians, and the public to report instances of rash illness associated with exposure to prairie dogs, Gambian rats and other animals to local and state public health authorities,” the CDC said in a statement.

The CDC also urged local health care workers to take precautions against airborne or contact infection.—AFP

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