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Monkeypox disease on human hands


Monkeypox is a contagious disease caused by a virus related to smallpox. The disease affects a wide variety of mammal species, including people in Central and West Africa, where the disease is endemic (regularly occurring). Monkeypox arrived in the United States in spring, 2003 through a shipment of several species of African rodents, some of which were unknowingly infected with monkeypox virus. These rodents were shipped to a pet distribution center in Texas and mixed with prairie dogs, also destined for the pet trade. The virus then spread to those prairie dogs which were then sold as pets in stores around the Midwest. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that 37 people contracted the disease, exhibiting signs of pox-like blisters on their skin, fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes; no human fatalities occurred. This contagious zoonotic disease had never been seen in the United States, except in non-human primates in captivity, until this 2003 outbreak.

The arrival of this emerging disease prompted USGS researchers working together with scientists in the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services investigated wild populations of rodents in areas where the cases of monkeypox in people were reported to determine if the disease could have possibly escaped into the wild by the inadvertent release of prairie dog pets. A total of 237 animals from 14 wildlife species were tested from 9 locations in Wisconsin and Illinois; all tests were negative for the monkeypox virus. Such studies of wildlife populations immediately following the invasion of any exotic disease are critical for determining if the disease is affecting wildlife, where it may become established in other wildlife species, and how it can potentially affect people and other animals.

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