Here, There, and Everywhere: The Wide Host Range and Geographic Distribution of Zoonotic Orthopoxviruses

Viruses. 2020 Dec 30;13(1):43. doi: 10.3390/v13010043.


The global emergence of zoonotic viruses, including poxviruses, poses one of the greatest threats to human and animal health. Forty years after the eradication of smallpox, emerging zoonotic orthopoxviruses, such as monkeypox, cowpox, and vaccinia viruses continue to infect humans as well as wild and domestic animals. Currently, the geographical distribution of poxviruses in a broad range of hosts worldwide raises concerns regarding the possibility of outbreaks or viral dissemination to new geographical regions. Here, we review the global host ranges and current epidemiological understanding of zoonotic orthopoxviruses while focusing on orthopoxviruses with epidemic potential, including monkeypox, cowpox, and vaccinia viruses.

Keywords: Cowpox virus; Monkeypox virus; Orthopoxvirus; Poxviridae; Vaccinia virus; emergent viruses; host range; outbreak; wild and domestic animals; zoonosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Geography, Medical
  • Host Specificity*
  • Humans
  • Orthopoxvirus / classification
  • Orthopoxvirus / physiology*
  • Poxviridae Infections / epidemiology*
  • Poxviridae Infections / virology*
  • Viral Zoonoses / epidemiology*
  • Viral Zoonoses / virology*