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Volume 19, Number 1—January 2013
News and Notes

Etymologia: Orf

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Orf [orf]

Origins of the term are unclear, but some sources (the Oxford English Dictionary, Webster’s) derive it from Old Norse hrūfa (“crust on a wound, scab”). Another source (Stedman’s) derives it from the Old English orfcwealm (“murrain, any infectious disease of livestock”), from orf (“cattle”) + cwealm (“destruction”). Paradoxically, although “orf” may trace its origin to a word meaning “cattle, orf does not naturally infect cattle.

Orf (contagious ecthyma) is an exanthematous infectious disease caused by a parapoxvirus that occurs primarily in sheep and goats but can be spread to humans through contact with an infected animal or fomites. Although most human cases are associated with occupational exposure to sheep or goats, cases have recently been reported in persons who were infected through household meat preparation or ritual sacrifice.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human orf virus infection from household exposures—United States, 2009–2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61:2458 .PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press; 2012.
  3. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. 27th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.
  4. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. Unabridged. Springfield (MA): G & C Mirriam Co.; 1961.
  5. White  DO, Fenner  FJ. Medical virology. 4th ed. San Diego: Academic Press; 1994.


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DOI: 10.3201/eid1901.et1901

Table of Contents – Volume 19, Number 1—January 2013

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Page updated: May 04, 2017
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