Smallpox-like virus no longer in US, CDC says

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Fewer than 2,000 people were exposed to the virus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there have been no cases of the smallpox-like virus COVID-19 in the US.

Earlier, the CDC said in a statement there were six cases of the disease. It later said the figure included information from the initial outbreak.

The agency said people’s exposure had been minimised, but a handful of people remained in hospital.

The smallpox virus is part of the same family as smallpox, but COVID-19 does not share genes with the deadly disease.

The COVID-19 Omicron strain was first identified in a 1986 case in a Saudi Arabian man who contracted smallpox in Israel.

The CDC said it was only recently that the virus had been seen in several small outbreaks, although samples have been identified since the 1970s.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The virus is part of the same family as smallpox

Although the virus has been primarily eradicated in the West, the governments of the former Soviet Union initially developed COVID-19 in a bid to control outbreaks.

No large-scale outbreaks of the virus have been reported in the US, but the CDC said the outbreak in North Carolina, one of the cases reported by the agency on Friday, was linked to the 2012 outbreak in Florida.

The agency said three of the six cases in North Carolina had since died. All have been women from African and Hispanic backgrounds, the CDC said.

COVID-19 was never part of the CDC’s normal transmission, so the agency only recently began investigating it.

The virus can cause smallpox-like symptoms in people with weakened immune systems.

It causes a range of symptoms from fever, headache, high blood pressure and chest pain, to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Smallpox, which killed around 300,000 people in the 1920s and 1930s, was eradicated after a World War I vaccination campaign.

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