CDC announces new virus related to smallpox

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday that two herdsmen in the nation of Georgia are infected with a new virus related to smallpox.

The newly identified virus, much like smallpox, causes painful blisters on the hands and arms, with other symptoms including fever, swollen lymph nodes and overall weakness, NPR.org reports.

"We consider this family of viruses very important because smallpox could be used as a bioterrorism agent," Disease Detective Neil Vora, who led the team that made the discovery, said, according to NPR.org. "We haven't found any evidence of human-to-human transmission, so far. But how many people are getting sick? Are animals getting sick? We don't know... We don't know if it has caused any deaths."

Because the virus is so unknown, it does not currently have a name.

Both of the men who caught the virus fully recovered. They caught the virus from dairy cattle. One man was originally believed to have anthrax, but a negative test result led to the public health department contacting the CDC for aid.

The CDC team discovered that the men had a poxvirus that had never been seen before.

Similar viruses can be lethal for those with suppressed immune systems. Smallpox carried a fatality rate of approximately 30 percent before it was eradicated in 1980. Since then, widespread vaccinations against the virus have ceased, Vora said, which could open the door for other viruses in the family.

"When you vaccinate a person with one of these viruses, it protects [against] other viruses in the family," Vora said, NPR.org reports. "Since smallpox vaccinations stopped, there's some indication that other ... orthopoxviruses have started to increase in their incidence because there's less immunity."