Cow pox infection in humans due to pet rats
Twelve patients with skin lesions, five of which were diagnosed as being infected with the cowpox virus, have been notified early 2009 to the French Institute of Disease Surveillance (IVS). The infections were linked to contact with rats bought in one of six pet shops between mid December and mid January. More recent data identified 32 pet shops in France with rats that are carrier of the cow pox virus. Apparently, all rats originate from two batches of animals imported from the Czech Republic. Also in Germany, where 21 cases were notified since December, the link between the recent purchase of a pet rat and the occurrence of cow pox infection was made.
Cowpox is an endemic zoonosis in western Europe, including in France, where small rodents are the main reservoir of the virus. Most rats show respiratory signs and sometimes skin lesions before they die. Infections in humans are rare but not exceptional. No human-tohuman transmission has been observed.