Human Cowpox Infection Treatment & Management

Updated: Jun 19, 2018
  • Author: Nikki A Levin, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Medical Care

Because cowpox is generally a self-limited disease, treatment is largely supportive. Patients often do not feel well and require bed rest or, occasionally, hospitalization.

Antiviral medications are not routinely used in cases of human cowpox, nor are antibiotics given unless the patient has developed a secondary bacterial infection. However, studies in mice suggest a role for the viral DNA polymerase inhibitor cidofovir, given parenterally, topically, or in an aerosolized form, for disseminated cases of cowpox. [27, 28]

Patients should be made aware that their lesions are potentially infectious, but no person-to-person transmission has been reported. Occlusive bandages may be applied to avoid this risk.

In severe cases, antivaccinia gammaglobulin may be given.


Surgical Care

Standard wound dressings may be applied to lesions. Draining of pus or removal of eschars may actually prolong infection or spread it to other body sites and is therefore not recommended.



Consult infectious disease and/or dermatology specialists for help in making a diagnosis and in differentiating it from parapoxvirus infections and other entities.



One may prevent infection with cowpox virus by avoiding exposure to sick cats or other sick animals. Recombinant vaccines against cowpox are being studied in mice and may eventually be available for human use. [29]