Update following outbreak of monkeypox in North America:
Abstract from the CDC
Monkeypox is a sporadic smallpox-like zoonotic viral exanthema indigenous to the rain forests of Central and West Africa, where the major reservoirs of the virus are monkeys and squirrels. Human-to-human transmission is also possible, and occurs within an incubation period of 12 days. Monkeypox has a high rate of morbidity but a low rate of mortality - less than 10% of those infected will die of the disease.
The symptoms of the monkeypox virus currently found in the Western hemisphere are "fever, cough, headache, myalgia, rash, or lymph node enlargement within 3 weeks after contact with prairie dogs or Gambian Giant Rats."
Prairie Dogs or Gambian Giant Rats?!?
Yes. Patient Zero of Western monkeypox appears to have been a Gambian Giant Rat, i.e., a R.O.U.S., sold by a a suburban Chicago pet distributor. The Gambian Giant Rat exposed itself to a group of prairie dogs whilst in Illinois, infecting them and spawning new vectors of transmission. CDC investigators have traced the outbreak from Patient Zero: Gambian Giant Rat to SK Exotics, a South Milwaukee pet distributor, who bought infected prairie dogs from the Villa Park distributor and imported them to Wisconsin. From there, the prairie dogs travelled to Milwaukee-based Hoffer TropicLife Pets and Rainbow Pets via an animal distributor swap meet. The point of origination of the Gambian Giant Rat is still unknown.
The apparent extensive popularity of prairie dogs and the people who love them thus led to initial outbreaks in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.
Authorities don't believe bioterrorism was involved. No word from the Federated Army of Giant Gambian Rats as to the involvement of one of their constituents has been forthcoming.