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Volume 15, Number 5—May 2009

Cowpox Virus Transmission from Pet Rats to Humans, Germany

Hartmut Campe1, Pia Zimmermann1, Katharina Glos, Margot Bayer, Hans Bergemann, Caroline Dreweck, Petra Graf, Bianca Kim Weber, Hermann Meyer, Mathias Büttner, Ulrich Busch, and Andreas SingComments to Author 
Author affiliations: Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority, Oberschleißheim, Germany (H. Campe, P. Zimmermann, M. Bayer, B.K. Weber, M. Büttner, U. Busch, A. Sing); Haas & Link Tierärztliche Fachklinik für Kleintiere, Germering, Germany (K. Glos); Local Health District Authority, Dachau, Germany (H. Bergemann); Department of Health and Environment, State Capital, Munich, Germany (C. Dreweck, P. Graf); Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology, Munich (H. Meyer); 1These authors contributed equally to this article.

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Summary of investigations for cowpox virus, by source, household, and individual (human or rat), Munich, Germany, 2009*

Pet origins, households, and cases Clinical findings Specimens Diagnostic methods
Antibody titer EM† PCR† Sequencing Virus isolation
Pet shop
Household 1
Human case 1 Lesion Skin biopsy, serum 640 ND Positive Cowpox virus Positive
Human case 2 Multiple lesions Serum 2,560 ND ND ND ND
Rat 1 Lesions, fatal outcome Crusts ND ND Positive Cowpox virus ND
Household 2
Human case 3 Lesion Crust ND ND Positive Cowpox virus Positive
Human case 4 Lesion NA ND ND ND ND ND
Human case 5 Multiple lesions Crust, serum 1,280 Positive Positive Cowpox virus Positive
Rat 2 and 3 Rat 2: lesion, fatal outcome; rat 3: healthy (no symptoms) Crusts, serum Rat 2: 1,280 Rat 2 positive Rat 2 positive Rat 2, cowpox virus Rat 2 positive
Household 3
Human contact None Swabs, blood, serum Negative ND Positive ND ND
Rat 4 plus 4 
previously owned 
rats (40–43) All rats: lesions, euthanized Crusts 3/3 positive: 160, 1,280, 2,560 ND 5/5 positive Cowpox virus ND
Households 4–6
Human contacts 
+ rats 5–7
All rats and human contacts with no clinical findings; 2 rats euthanized
Rats 9–39 4 rats with lesions (1 dead); all others with no clinical findings Mouth swabs, serum 4/30 positive (>40) ND 17/31 positive Cowpox virus ND

*All obtained hemagglutinin open reading frames were 924 bp, and the respective sequences were 100% identical to each other (GenBank accession no. FJ654467). Rat 8 from the outbreak litter belonging to household 7 is missing because the rat owner could not be identified. EM, electron microscopy; ND, not done; NA, materials not available.
†For Orthopoxvirus spp.

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Page created: December 16, 2010
Page updated: December 16, 2010
Page reviewed: December 16, 2010
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.