Your pet not only gives you happiness but can also cause diseases. A UK woman developed a severe eye infection and the doctors found out that it was a rare virus called cowpox, a relative of smallpox which she contracted for her pet cat. 

A 28-year old woman from London suffered from eye irritation along with redness and discharge in her right eye which lasted for 5 days and went to the emergency room. According to the report, the doctor prescribed a slew of antibiotics and antiviral drugs to treat her infection but it resulted in vain. Her condition became, even more, worse and she also developed orbital cellulitis, an infection of the soft tissue and fat around the eye. This infection was causing the tissue in her eye to die or necrotize which made her doctor worried that she would lose her vision.     

Dr. Miles Kiernan, Ophthalmologist in Royal Free Hospital says that they were concerned that the infection would permanently damage her vision or even spread beyond the eye orbit or socket. While the doctor was unaware of the condition, thankfully the patient informed the doctors that her cat has lesions on the head and paws for two weeks. The doctor later took samples from the patients’ eye and cat lesions and sent them for a test. The test results confirmed that the cat had cowpox, a member of the Orthopoxvirus family that causes smallpox and monkeypox. 

The PCR tests of the samples from the lesions taken from the veterinarian were positive for orthopoxvirus and the PCR test of the conjunctival swab from the patients was also positive for orthopoxvirus. The doctors removed dead cells from the woman’s eye and gave her different medications including steroids. The doctors reported that she got her vision back in her right eye a perfect 20/20 six months later. But she still suffers from restricted eye movement and eye drooping.

Transmission of Cowpox 

Cowpox can infect many animal species including cows, elephants, and cats but the transmission of cowpox to humans is rare and also in cattle. Dr.Kiernan says that cats can be infected with cowpox when they kill rodents carrying the virus. The patient might be infected while she petted her cat and then rubbed or touched her eyes.   

Dr. Kiernan says that even after the eradication of smallpox certain parts of the world have orthopoxviruses including cowpox in Europe and monkeypox in central and west Africa. Currently, the UK is also suffering an outbreak of monkeypox and recently two cases were detected in Wales last week and the patients were admitted to the hospital. BBC says that monkeypox disease is more likely to be transmitted overseas as the first case came from a person from abroad and he later passed the illness to one of his members in his household.  

Cowpox is a zoonotic disease (an infectious disease that transfers from animal to humans) and similar to smallpox but less severe.