New Smallpox-Like Virus Discovered

Two herdsmen in country of Georgia infected, says CDC
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2014 11:11 AM CDT
New Smallpox-Like Virus Discovered
Both men caught the virus from dairy cattle.   (AP Photo/William Fernando Martinez)

The virus is so newly discovered that it hasn't yet been named, and what's known about it is scant. But the CDC today revealed that the virus, which has saddled two herdsmen in the country of Georgia with blisters on their arms and hands, is what NPR calls "a second cousin" to smallpox. "We consider this family of viruses very important because smallpox could be used as a bioterrorism agent," notes Neil Vora, the scientist whose team identified the "novel virus." Interestingly, Vora's report notes that the "cessation of routine smallpox vaccination has created opportunities for the emergence of" such viruses.

The herdsmen, who have recovered, caught the virus from dairy cattle. The infection stumped local officials, who initially thought it might be anthrax. When that proved not to be the case, they enlisted the CDC in July 2013. Vora notes the CDC hasn't seen any human-to-human transmission yet. "But how many people are getting sick? Are animals getting sick? We don't know ... We don't know if it has caused any deaths." (More virus stories.)

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