A pox on their squirrels: German scientists find new virus

In this undated photo made available by the Leibniz-IZW a dead squirrel is pictured in Berlin, Germany. Scientists in Germany have identified a new type of pox virus that‘s sickening young red squirrels in the Berlin area. It was discovered after Tanya Lenn, who works at a local squirrel sanctuary, noticed juvenile animals with severe inflammation on their hands, feet and ears. (Leibniz-IZW/G. Wibbelt via AP)

Scientists in Germany have identified a new type of pox virus that's sickening young red squirrels in Berlin

BERLIN — Scientists in Germany have identified a new type of pox virus that's sickening young red squirrels in Berlin.

Tanya Lenn, who works at a local squirrel sanctuary, had noticed juvenile animals with severely inflamed hands and feet.

Lenn says: "The little squirrels cannot keep hold of anything because their tiny fingers are sticking together. The wounds are so painful that some animals die in shock."

Researchers at the Robert Koch Institute found the squirrels were infected with a virus quite different from the pox that's decimated red squirrels in Britain.

Wildlife pathologist Gudrun Wibbelt of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research said Thursday adult squirrels don't appear to fall ill from the virus, and juveniles can be saved if treated.

The virus isn't known to infect other species.

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