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A Silent Enzootic of an Orthopoxvirus in Ghana, West Africa: Evidence for Multi-Species Involvement in the Absence of Widespread Human Disease

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  • 1 Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; Ghana Health Service, Ghana Ministry of Health, Accra, Ghana; Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, Accra, Ghana; Virology Department, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana; United States Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, Colorado

Human monkeypox has never been reported in Ghana, but rodents captured in forested areas of southern Ghana were the source of the monkeypox virus introduced into the United States in 2003. Subsequent to the outbreak in the United States, 204 animals were collected from two commercial trapping sites in Ghana. Animal tissues were examined for the presence of orthopoxvirus (OPXV) DNA using a real-time polymerase chain reaction, and sera were assayed for antibodies against OPXV. Animals from five genera (Cricetomys, Graphiurus, Funiscirus, and Heliosciurus) had antibodies against OPXV, and three genera (Cricetomys, Graphiurus, and Xerus) had evidence of OPXV DNA in tissues. Additionally, 172 persons living near the trapping sites were interviewed regarding risk factors for OPXV exposure, and their sera were analyzed. Fifty-three percent had IgG against OPXV; none had IgM. Our findings suggest that several species of forest-dwelling rodents from Ghana are susceptible to naturally occurring OPXV infection, and that persons living near forests may have low-level or indirect exposure to OPXV-infected animals, possibly resulting in sub-clinical infections.

Author Notes

*Address correspondence to Mary G. Reynolds, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop G-43 Atlanta, GA 30333. E-mail: nzr6@cdc.gov†These authors contributed equally to this article.

Financial support: This study was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with participation from U.S. Department of Agriculture–Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the government of the Republic of Ghana.

Authors' addresses: Mary G. Reynolds, Darin S. Carroll, Victoria A. Olson, Christine Hughes, Anna Likos, Zach Braden, Jason Abel, Cody Clemmons, Russell Regnery, Kevin Karem, and Inger K. Damon, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, E-mails: nzr6@cdc.gov, zuz4@cdc.gov, vao9@cdc.gov, bvp6@dc.gov, abl5@cdc.gov, zab5@cdc.gov, jza5@cdc.gov, buq4@cdc.gov, rur1@cdc.gov, kdk6@cdc.gov, and iad7@cdc.gov. Jack Galley, Ghana Health Service, Ghana Ministry of Health Accra, Ghana, E-mail: jgalley@hotmail.com. Joel M. Montgomery, U.S. Naval Medical Research Center Detachment Peru, American Embassy Unit 3800, Lima, Peru, E-mail: joel.montgomery@med.navy.mil. Richard Suu-Ire, Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission Accra Zoo, Accra, Ghana, E-mail: suuire@hotmail.com. Mubarak O. Kwasi, Virology Unit, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana, E-mail: mosei-kwasi@noguchi.mimcom.net. J. Jeffrey Root, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO, E-mail: jeff.root@aphis.usda.gov.

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