British teenager developed 18th Century cowpox after feeding cattle on his farm
- Unnamed boy broke out in itchy lesions on his hands, feet and arms
- He was rushed to hospital when one of the lesions started seeping fluid
- Doctors who diagnosed him had never come across cowpox before
- The boy is thought to have recovered but has been left with scars
- Cowpox was common among milkmaids in the 18th Century but is rare today
A teenager has caught the Georgian disease cowpox after feeding cattle on his family’s farm, an expert claims.
The boy, who is too embarrassed to be named, broke out in itchy lesions on his hands, feet and arms after calves ate from his palms, leaving grazes.
When one of the lesions started seeping clear fluid, the 15-year-old was rushed to hospital, where he was diagnosed by doctors who had never come across the infection before.
The boy, from the Wrexham-Cheshire border, is thought to have recovered but has been left with scars.
Cowpox was common among milkmaids in the Georgian era (18th Century) but is rarely caught today due to few people milking cattle by hand and the smallpox vaccine offering immunity to the infection.
According to Public Health Wales, the last reported case was 10-to-15 years ago.
Experts previously warned diseases linked to the Victorian era (19th Century), such as syphilis, rickets, gout and scarlet fever, are on the rise in the UK due to a fall in living standards and growing financial inequality.
A teenager has caught cowpox after feeding cattle on his family’s farm
The boy broke out in itchy lesions on his hands, feet and arms after calves ate from his palms
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Cowpox has not been wiped out
The teenager’s mother told the BBC: ‘My son was quite embarrassed – it looked quite a mess, the lesions weren’t nice and it wasn’t pleasant for him.
Dr Aysha Javed, who diagnosed the boy at the Countess of Chester Hospital, added: ‘I think the boy and his family were quite bemused when we told them – I don’t think they expected that to be the diagnosis.
‘I think it was very itchy for him but it wasn’t particularly painful.’
Dr Javed spoke of the teenager’s infection at the European Society for Pediatric Dermatology annual conference in London earlier this month where she urged people to be aware the condition has not been wiped out.
He was rushed to hospital when one of the lesions started seeping clear fluid
What is cowpox and how did it lead to vaccinations?
Cowpox is a rare skin infection that milkmaids frequently caught from touching the udders of affected cattle.
The condition causes pus-like lesions, which form black scabs that usually heal within 12 weeks without treatment. Cowpox can be dangerous in those with weak immune systems.
In 1796, the English doctor Edward Jenner noticed milkmaids who recovered from cowpox were less likely to develop smallpox, which killed around one in five of those who caught it.
Dr Jenner exposed eight-year-old James Phipps to fluid from a milkmaid’s cowpox lesion.
James was then exposed to smallpox and did not become ill. This is believed to be the start of modern-day vaccinations.
As a result of global vaccination programmes, the World Health Organization declared smallpox as eradicated worldwide in 1980.
Nowadays, cowpox is usually caught from the scratch or bite of cats who develop the infection from woodland rats.
ARE VICTORIA-ERA DISEASES ON THE RISE?
Poor lifestyles are causing a surge of diseases linked to the Victorian era in the UK, experts warned in March 2017.
A fall in living standards and growing financial inequality are thought to be behind a rise in cases of rickets, gout, syphilis and scarlet fever.
Rickets was made famous by Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Rickets, made famous by Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, has increased by 39 per cent between 2009 and 2010.
The disease, which can be caused by a vitamin D deficiency, leaves sufferers with brittle bones and skeletal deformities.
Despite being common in 19th century Britain, it was all but wiped out due to ongoing improvements in nutrition.
It is thought that a fear of contracting skin cancer could be making parents overly cautious about sun exposure, putting youngsters at risk of the condition.
As well as sun exposure, vitamin D can obtained by eating foods such as oily fish, egg yolks and liver.
In January 2017, a think-tank warned rising inflation means poor families are unable to afford nutritious foods to prevent the onslaught of the disease.
Cases of gout increased by 41 per cent between 2009 and 10, from 6,908 to 9,708, The Sun reports.
The form of arthritis, caused by a build-up of uric acid, a waste product of the body, famously afflicted Henry VIII and was rife in the Victorian era.
An ‘obesity epidemic’ and ageing population is behind the rise in gout in recent times, according to the UK Gout Society.
The rising numbers of people having unprotected sex has been blamed for an increase in syphilis.
Once a death sentence, the vast majority of those infected today are curable via penicillin injections.
Figures for the sexually transmitted infection have nearly doubled in the past eight years, from 2,646 to 5,217, according to Public Health England.
Scarlet fever, which causes a rash, jumped by 198 per cent in a year (stock)
Cases of scarlet fever also jumped by 198 per cent between 2009 and 2010, data shows.
The highly contagious disease causes a sore throat, fever and rash, which can occasionally lead to pneumonia if not treated promptly.
Although fatal in the Victorian era, the disease is restricted to no more than unpleasant symptoms if treated early.
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