2003 Midwest monkeypox outbreak

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2003 Midwest Monkeypox Outbreak

The 2003 Midwest Monkeypox Outbreak was a significant public health incident in the United States, marking the first time that human cases of monkeypox were reported outside of Africa. The outbreak was primarily centered in the Midwest, with cases reported in the states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that is similar to smallpox, but with a milder course of illness. It is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus within the family Poxviridae.

Background[edit | edit source]

Monkeypox was first identified in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research, leading to its name. However, the natural reservoir of the virus is believed to be small mammals in Africa. The disease is endemic in certain parts of Central and West Africa, where it is transmitted to humans through direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals. Human-to-human transmission can occur but is less common.

Outbreak Description[edit | edit source]

In early June 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported multiple cases of monkeypox in the United States. The outbreak was traced back to a shipment of animals from Ghana, Africa, to Texas in April 2003. The shipment contained various species, including Gambian pouched rats, which were believed to be the primary carriers of the virus. These animals were subsequently sold to a pet distributor in Illinois, where they came into contact with prairie dogs that were later sold as pets.

The infected prairie dogs transmitted the virus to humans, resulting in 71 reported cases of monkeypox. Patients presented with fever, rash, and lymphadenopathy. The outbreak prompted a significant public health response, including a temporary ban on the importation of certain African rodents and the sale of prairie dogs. No deaths were reported in the United States, but the outbreak highlighted the potential for exotic pet trade to introduce novel zoonotic diseases.

Prevention and Control[edit | edit source]

The 2003 outbreak led to increased awareness of the risks associated with the exotic pet trade. Measures were taken to improve surveillance for monkeypox and other zoonotic diseases. Recommendations for preventing monkeypox include avoiding contact with animals that could harbor the virus, especially in endemic areas, and practicing good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans.

Impact[edit | edit source]

The outbreak had a significant impact on public health policy, leading to changes in regulations regarding the importation and sale of exotic animals in the United States. It also underscored the importance of global health surveillance and the potential for zoonotic diseases to spread across continents.

See Also[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD