January 26, 2006

Farm animals may give their caretakers orf virus

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who come in close
contact with sheep and goats risk contracting orf virus from
infected animals, U.S. health officials note in a report
released this week.

Orf virus disease is an infection of the skin that occurs
worldwide -- most commonly among farm workers, sheepherders,
and veterinarians. Humans usually acquire the infection by
close contact with infected animals. Person to person
transmission is rare.

In this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a
publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, Dr. G. Green, from Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa,
California, and colleagues report four cases of orf skin
infections that followed handling of goats and sheep.

In two cases, the animals had sores on their mouths. In
three cases, the illnesses described occurred soon after
vaccination of the flocks with non-attenuated, live virus
preparations. Moreover, three of the patients had concurrent
skin trauma.

Orf virus typically presents as small, bumpy lesions on the
base of the hands. Antibiotic treatment is of no benefit, and
lesions generally heal on their own within weeks to months.

Green and colleagues recommend that sheep and goat handlers
wear barrier protection, such as gloves, and wash hands during
care of the animals. Immunocompromised individuals and those
with chronic skin conditions, such as eczema, may be at
increased risk.

Skin lesions caused by orf virus can be mistaken for
life-threatening infections such as anthrax, making rapid and
definitive diagnosis critical, investigators warn. Laboratory
testing is required to confirm a diagnosis of orf virus

SOURCE: The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, January
26, 2006.