Management of an Outbreak of Cowpox in a Group of Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012
Gabby J. Drake1, BVSc, BSc (Hons), MRCVS; Julian Chantrey2, PhD, BSc, BVM&S, MRCVS, DipRCPath; Livia Benato1, GPCert (ExAP), DVM, MRCVS; Stephanie Sanderson1, MA, VetMB, MSc (WAH), MRCVS; Steve Unwin1, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS; Malcolm Bennett2, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, FRCPath, FHEA
1North of England Zoological Society, Upton-by-Chester, Cheshire, UK; 2Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool, Neston, UK


Cowpox is a virus in the family Poxviridae. In the United Kingdom, wild rodents are the reservoir host, and in these species it does not cause overt disease.1 However, when cowpox crosses out from its reservoir hosts it can cause disease in other species.2,3 Domestic cats are most often affected, although many species, including man, can be.4 Here we report the management of a group of nine captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii) during a cowpox outbreak. A family group of five cheetahs developed clinical signs and were immediately isolated. The index case, a 4-month-old female, was anesthetized and sampled due to the development of a focal raised ulcerative nodular lesion on the rostral lower lip. Cowpox was diagnosed by clinical signs, PCR of tissue and blood and histopathology. Treatment, including supportive care with non-steroidals, covering antibiotics, feline interferon omega and monolaurin was given to all cheetahs with clinical signs. Two of the five cheetahs that developed clinical signs died or were euthanatized. Case followup includes opportunistic serum antibody titres against cowpox for all cheetahs at the facility and investigation of vaccination. In addition, future potential treatments such as novel anti-viral drugs, immune stimulants or immune modulators and nutritional supplements are being investigated. Finally, ongoing survey work is being done to further characterize and quantify this emerging infectious disease in captive wild species across Europe.

Literature Cited

1.  Burthe S., S. Telfer, M. Begon, M. Bennett, A. Smith and X. Lambin. 2008. Cowpox virus infection in natural field vole Microtus agrestis populations: significant negative impacts on survival. Journal of Animal Ecology 77: 110–119.

2.  Baxby D., D.G. Ashton, D.M. Jones and L. R. Thomsett. 1982. An outbreak of cowpox in captive cheetahs: virological and epidemiological studies. Journal of Hygiene 89: 365–372.

3.  Schmiedeknecht G., M. Eickmann, K. Köhler, et al. 2010. Fatal cowpox virus infection in captive banded mongooses (Mungos mungo). Vet Pathology 47: 547–552.

4.  Schulze C., M. Alex, H. Schirrmeier, et al. 2007. Generalized fatal cowpox virus infection in a cat with transmission to a human contact case. Zoonoses Public Health. 54: 31–37.


Speaker Information
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Gabby J. Drake, BVSc, BSc (Hons), MRCVS
North of England Zoological Society
Upton-by-Chester, Cheshire, UK

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