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The cowpox virus (CPXV) is the infectious agent that causes cowpox. Large skin blisters, a fever, and swollen glands are the classic symptoms of the disease, which usually appear after contact with an infected cow. The virus is zoonotic, which means it may spread from one animal to another, like a cat to a human. Rodents and other non-bovine animals are more frequently affected with cowpox. Similar to smallpox, which is extremely contagious and frequently fatal, cowpox is much milder.
Background of Cowpox Virus
CPXV, genus orthopoxvirus, family Poxviridae, is a DNA virus that is linked to smallpox and monkeypox viruses and antigenically and genetically quite similar, but not identical, to the vaccinia virus. The orthopoxvirus genus includes the pathogens vaccinia virus and smallpox, which only infect humans, as well as cowpox and monkeypox viruses, both of which have a rodent reservoir. In contrast to the ovoid parapoxvirus genus, these enormous, brick-shaped viruses replicate in the cytoplasm and have a 200 kbp DNA genome. They are comparable to the yatapoxvirus genus and the molluscipox virus.
Symptoms of Cowpox
Cowpox is a self-limiting disease, not highly infective in immunocompetent humans. The incubation period ranges from 7 to 12 days, and in rare occasions it might reach 3 weeks. Exanthema, crusted ulcerated nodules, or blisters on the fingers, arms, legs, or face are examples of painful, localized lesions that immune-competent patients can present with. The virus spreads through skin abrasions, causing a series of lesions that progress through the macular, papular, vesicular, pustular, ulceral, and eschar stages with surrounding erythema and edema for two weeks. Scarring occurs during the healing process. It's also typical to experience systemic flu-like symptoms as headache, nausea, myalgia, and severe lymphadenopathy.
Epidemiology of Cowpox
Contact with an animal can spread cowpox. The pathogenic agent, CPXV, is widespread in Europe, the western former USSR, and nearby regions of Northern and Central Asia. It can infect people, domestic and zoo animals, and possibly even wild animals. Since CPXV is enzootic in cattle, it is a rare occupational infection. Wild rodents are the virus' natural reservoir, with bank voles having the greatest seroprevalence levels (Clethrionomys glareolus). Cowpox transmission from rat to human, and it was first established in 2002. Cowpox circulation in Scandinavia was demonstrated by serological research on rodents, common shrews (Sorex araneus), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), and carnivores.