Diseases Home > Cowpox

Cowpox is a viral infection that is mainly found in Europe, particularly in the UK. It is found in wild rodents, most commonly in bank voles, wood mice, and field voles. Transmission from these animals to humans is rare. When a human does contract the virus, symptoms are similar to what a person might experience after getting the smallpox vaccine, including a rash that develops where the skin touched the infected ulcer.

What Is Cowpox?

Cowpox is an infection caused by a virus. It is mainly found in Europe, particularly in the UK.
 

What Causes It?

The condition is caused by the cowpox virus. The cowpox virus is within the family Poxviridae and the genus Orthopoxvirus. Other orthopoxviruses that cause infections in humans include:
 
Cowpox virus was used to make the first successful smallpox vaccine (today, the vaccinia virus is used).
 

Transmitting Cowpox

Cowpox most commonly is spread through direct contact with an infected ulcer on a cow's teat. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with an infected cat.
 
The virus is found in wild rodents, most commonly in bank voles, wood mice, and field voles, although transmission from these animals to humans is rare. There has been one proven case of rodent-to-human transmission. Other animals that can transmit cowpox include animals in zoos and circuses.
 
Person-to-person transmission has not been reported.
 

Incubation Period

When a person becomes infected with the virus that causes cowpox, the virus begins to multiply within the body. After 9 to 10 days, symptoms can begin. This period between the transmission of cowpox and the start of symptoms is called the "cowpox incubation period."
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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