Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide







  • Last modified
  • 05 July 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • buffalopox
  • Overview
  • Buffalopox is considered to be an emerging and re-emerging zoonosis in India and other countries that raise buffalo (Singh et al...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • buffalopox

International Common Names

  • English: BPV infection; buffalo pox


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Buffalopox is considered to be an emerging and re-emerging zoonosis in India and other countries that raise buffalo (Singh et al., 2007; Venkatesan et al., 2010).

In India, outbreaks of pox disease amongst domestic buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis) have been recognised since 1934 (Sharma, 1934). Early reports considered it to be related to infection with variola or vaccinia viruses; the term buffalopox was not used until Haddow and Idnani (1949). Buffalo calves had been used extensively for production of vaccinia virus for vaccination of humans against smallpox and some had suspected that this was the origin of the outbreaks. However, the persistence of outbreaks after the cessation of human vaccination suggested that the disease could persist independently. DNA analysis has suggested that buffalo poxvirus may be conspecific with vaccinia (Dumbell and Richardson, 1993).

The disease has now been described from a number of other countries where buffalo are important domestic animals, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Egypt (Lal and Singh, 1977). In addition to buffalo, cattle have been reported to have become infected in some outbreaks (Ghosh et al., 1977; Sehgal et al., 1977; Yadav et al., 2010; Tarang Goyal et al., 2013). Cases of zoonotic human infections with buffalo poxvirus, mostly among animal attendants, milkers and laboratory workers have been reported regularly since the first report in buffalo (Kolhapure et al., 1997; Bhanuprakash et al., 2010; Tarang Goyal et al., 2013; Thachamvally Riyesh et al., 2014).

Clinically the disease is typical of a non-fatal poxvirus infection with characteristic pocks developing over the skin of the udder and teats of milking animals and the heads of suckling calves; lesions are described to have become generalised in some animals (Katana, 1969; Bhanuprakash et al., 2010). The course of infection generally runs for 4-8 weeks and recovered animals have brown scars where lesions have resolved. The main economic impact is due to reduced milk production, which can become complete and result in mastitis through stenosis of the milk canal.

Infection in humans is usually restricted to one to five lesions affecting the hands and forearms. Human-to-human infection was formerly not considered to occur. However, this view has been challenged as outbreaks in humans have occurred with a longer duration and more severe symptoms in individuals that have had no confirmed contact with buffaloes (Kolhapure et al., 1997). Nosocomial spread between hospital burns units in Karachi, Pakistan, was reported by Afia Zafar et al. (2007).

Since 2006, mass outbreaks of buffalopox in domestic buffaloes, along with severe zoonotic infection in milk attendants, have been reported in several regions in India (Bhanuprakash et al., 2010; Venkatesan et al., 2010). In some outbreaks, infections were also recorded in cows in the same herds (Yadav et al., 2010).  An increase in buffalo poxvirus transmission to different species, including buffaloes, cows, and humans, suggests the reemergence of zoonotic buffalopox infection (Bhanuprakash et al., 2010; Bera et al., 2012). Shchelkunov (2013) speculates that since outbreaks have been recorded in different distant regions of India, there is likely to be an abundant natural buffalo poxvirus reservoir represented by wild animals, possibly rodents.

Hosts/Species Affected

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Most outbreaks of disease affect only buffaloes and humans although some also involve cattle (Ghosh et al., 1977).

Infection is most frequently recognised in milking animals with lesions appearing on the teats and udders, whereas in humans lesions are mainly on the hands and forearms of milkers, where they have come into contact with infected animals.

Infectivity experiments revealed buffalo poxvirus is transmissible to buffaloes, cows, rabbits, guinea-pigs and suckling mice, whereas sheep, goats, fowl and adult mice were found refractory to infection (Singh et al., 1996).


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Buffalopox is endemic in India and has been reported from many other areas where buffaloes are farmed for milk or draught, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Egypt (Lal and Singh, 1977).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.


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Rana et al. (1988) intradermally infected 6-month-old buffalo calves with buffalo poxvirus; infected and control animals were killed over 17 days. Primary lesions of erythema and papules followed on days 2-3, then vesicle and pustule formation on days 4-5 and scab formation on day 10; ulcers had healed by 28 days. Pyrexia was apparent from days 2-9 and lacrimation and nasal discharge between days 5-9. Four buffalo calves developed diarrhoea. Secondary skin lesions appeared between days 6-8. Regional lymph nodes were enlarged and congested from days 2-6. The lungs were congested and emphysematous from days 5-9. Hepatic and splenic focal necrosis appeared from days 5 and 6. The abomasal serosa developed nodules between days 6-10. The intestine had haemorrhages and enlarged Peyer's patches.

Chandra et al. (1986) reported that experimental infection of rabbits produced typical skin lesions at the site of primary inoculation, following an incubation period of 48-72 h. Gross lesions in internal organs, characterized by focal or diffuse necrotic areas on the lungs, liver and spleen were seen from day 5 after inoculation. Isolated lesions of approximately 2 mm diameter appeared in the skin, stomach, intestine and uterus from day 7. Histopathological changes, including intra-alveolar and intra-bronchial haemorrhages, were seen in lungs and severe fatty changes were found in the liver. Multinuclear cells were detected in the liver during recovery.


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Diagnosis is often made on clinical grounds alone. Virus in scabs can be detected by electron microscopy and may be cultivated in embryonated eggs or tissue culture cells such as RK-13, chick embryo fibroblasts, BHK21 or Vero cell lines (Baxby and Hill, 1971; Manoharan et al., 2009). Various serological assays have been developed for diagnosis of buffalopox, including agar gel immunodiffusion test (AGID), counter-immunoelectrophoresis (CIE), serum neutralization test (SNT), ELISA and immunoperoxidase test (IPT); however, these tests may fail to accurately diagnose the disease due to antigenic cross-reactivity (Singh et al., 2007). A specific and sensitive PCR assay for the diagnosis of buffalopox is described by Singh et al. (2008).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Reproductive Signs / Agalactia, decreased, absent milk production Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow Diagnosis
Reproductive Signs / Firm mammary gland, hard udder Cattle & Buffaloes:Heifer,Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow Sign
Reproductive Signs / Obstruction of milk outflow Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow Sign
Reproductive Signs / Teat injury, cut, tear Cattle & Buffaloes:Heifer,Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow Sign
Reproductive Signs / Vulval ulcers, vesicles, erosions, tears, cuts, pustules, papules Cattle & Buffaloes:Heifer,Cattle & Buffaloes:Cow Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Scarred skin Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin crusts, scabs Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin papules Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin pustules Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin ulcer, erosion, excoriation Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin vesicles, bullae, blisters Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages Diagnosis
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Warm skin, hot, heat Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages Sign

Disease Course

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Both generalised and localised forms of the disease have been described in affected buffaloes whereas humans may experience a systemic reaction. In buffalo, the disease is characterised by the development of typical poxvirus lesions mainly on the teats, udder, inner thigh and in some cases around the lips, nostrils, ears and eyes. In some cases pocks are distributed extensively over the body. Typical lesions progress from papule to vesicle to pustule to scab, which is in turn replaced by an ulcer in 10-15 days that leaves a brown scar when resolved. In all milking animals yields are reduced and in some cases stenosis of the milk canal may occur, resulting in mastitis and cessation of milk production. Full recovery may take 1-2 months.

In humans, lesions are seldom more than five in number and are usually restricted to the hands and forearms. Infection is associated with fever lasting up to 5 days which commences shortly after lesions are first observed. Lesions will normally resolve after 2 weeks, leaving superficial scars.

Reports suggest that buffalopox outbreaks in India are becoming more severe. Four outbreaks of buffalopox in domestic buffaloes, with high case fatality rates in young buffalo calves, high morbidity with significant productivity loss in adult animals, and severe zoonotic infection in milk attendants were recorded at various places in India, during 2006-2008 (Bhanuprakash et al., 2010). In buffaloes, the pox lesions were confined to udder and teats of the majority of the affected animals; in a few animals the lesions appeared on the hindquarters, indicating generalized infection. The overall disease morbidity, mortality and case fatality rate were 6.8%, 0.7% and 11.4%, respectively. Milkers developed pox-like lesions on the hands, forearms and forehead accompanied by fever, axillary lymphadenopathy and general malaise.

A severe outbreak involving many human cases was recorded in Kolhapur (Maharashtra), India in 2009 (Venkatesan et al., 2010). The outbreak involved 4000 buffalo from 21 villages and 125 humans, who were mostly animal handlers and milkers of all age groups. Pox lesions were observed on all parts of the body of the animals; the most severe were on the inner ear, which led to otitis and pyrexia. Milkers developed pox-like lesions on the skin of their fingers, hands, forearms, forehead, ears and face, along with pyrexia, malaise and axillary lymphadenitis and lymphadenopathy.

Tarang Goyal et al. (2013) reported a buffalopox outbreak with atypical features in Uttar Pradesh, India. Lesions were present on the eyes, hands, fingers, legs and feet of patients. Two patients developed severe lesions on the left eyelid that progressed from the vesicular stage leading to the development of severe inflammation and corneal opacity within 7-10 days. Lesions were present in the children of milkers, suggesting spread by fomites.


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Disease is regularly reported from buffalo-rearing areas in India. The disease has mainly been recorded in young and old buffaloes during the epidemics (Singh et al., 2007), but cattle are occasionally affected (Ghosh et al., 1977). Humans, particularly milkers, contract infection upon close contact with infected animals (Singh et al., 2007). The spread of infection among animals and humans in villages is probably facilitated by direct contact between affected and healthy animals, between dairy personnel and also by animal trade between villages (Singh et al., 2006; Venkatesan et al., 2010).

An overall disease prevalence rate of 10.13% was reported in one study of buffalopox, in which there was no significant difference between prevalence in adult male (13.63%) and adult female (13%) and young male (6.32%) and young female buffaloes (5.24%) (Kumar et al., 1987). A higher prevalence (23.4-79.4%) was reported in outbreaks in Karnataka (Muraleedharan et al., 1989). The spread of disease in these outbreaks was rapid and biting flies such as Lyperosia exigua [Haematobia irritans exigua], Musca crassirostris and M. vicina [M. domestica vicina] aggravated the sores. The authors suggest that flies may be involved in mechanical transmission.

Impact: Economic

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Buffalopox is an economically significant disease in states of India where buffalo are important, with losses occurring through lost milk production and development of mastitis, decreased meat yield and reduced draught power.

During a severe outbreak in Kolhapur (Maharashtra), India, in 2009, Venkatesan et al. (2010) reported a loss of approximately 40% in terms of reduced milk production and a decline in animal trade. Bhanuprakash et al. (2010) reported that in four outbreaks in India during 2006-2008 there was a significant reduction in milk yield (30-35%) of affected animals, and in some cases, there was a permanent reduction in milk yield as a sequel to severe mastitis. The estimated cost of treatment per animal was approximately US$ 8.5, which corresponds to a 15-20% loss of income per month per animal during the course of the outbreak.

Zoonoses and Food Safety

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Buffalopox in humans is mainly known from those who have had immediate contact with buffalo, mainly milkers. Those successfully vaccinated against smallpox are protected from infection. However, since the eradication of smallpox and the discontinuation of vaccination, the proportion of susceptible individuals is increasing. The impact of this may now be becoming apparent as it has recently been suggested that outbreaks have become more frequent and that the disease in humans is becoming more severe (Jayaraman, 1996; Tarang Goyal et al., 2013). Some outbreaks have been associated with numbers of cases in individuals who have had no known contact with buffalo, suggesting that human-to-human transmission may now be occurring (Kolhapure et al., 1997).

Disease Treatment

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Animals normally make an uncomplicated recovery. However, affected animals are often treated with antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections (Rani et al., 2006; Debasis Jana and Mousumi Ghosh, 2008; Venkatesan et al., 2010), and antibacterial cream may be applied to the skin lesions (Rani et al., 2006; Debasis Jana and Mousumi Ghosh, 2008).

Prevention and Control

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In countries where the disease is endemic and animal movement is difficult to restrict, disease control is complex. The problem is compounded by lack of precise diagnostics and prophylactics. The contamination of buffalo meat for export is also a problem (Singh et al., 2007).

No specific strategies for control have been described but because transmission is often by contact via milkers, good hygiene practices are recommended for milkers, such as washing hands with antiseptic solutions before and after milking.

Milkers are encouraged to isolate infected animals, dress wounds with povidone-iodine, and use insect repellents as preventive measures (Rani et al., 2006; Tarang Goyal et al., 2013).

Any animals that are clinically affected should be milked last and infected humans should be discouraged from having contact with buffaloes until lesions have resolved. In addition, purchased animals should be carefully examined and if suspect lesions are detected then animals should be isolated until lesions have resolved.

No commercial vaccines are available. 


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Afia Zafar, Swanepoel R, Hewson R, Mazhar Nizam, Altaf Ahmed, Akhtar Husain, Grobbelaar A, Bewley K, Mioulet V, Dowsett B, Easterbrook L, Rumina Hasan, 2007. Nosocomial buffalopoxvirus infection, Karachi, Pakistan. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 13(6):902-904.

Baxby D, Hill BJ, 1969. Buffalopox virus. Veterinary Record, 85:315-316.

Baxby D, Hill BJ, 1971. Characterisation of a new poxvirus isolated from Indian buffaloes. Archive für die Gesamt Virusforschung, 35:70-79.

Bera BC, Shanmugasundaram K, Sanjay Barua, Taruna Anand, Riyesh T, Vaid RK, Nitin Virmani, Manish Bansal, Shukla BN, Praveen Malik, Singh RK, 2012. Sequence and phylogenetic analysis of host-range (E3L, K3L, and C7L) and structural protein (B5R) genes of buffalopox virus isolates from buffalo, cattle, and human in India. Virus Genes, 45(3):488-498.

Bhanuprakash V, Venkatesan G, Balamurugan V, Hosamani M, Yogisharadhya R, Gandhale P, Reddy KV, Damle AS, Kher HN, Chandel BS, Chauhan HC, Singh RK, 2010. Zoonotic infections of buffalopox in India. Zoonoses and Public Health, 57(7/8):e149-e155.

Chandra R, Singh IP, Garg SK, Varshney KC, 1986. Experimental pathogenesis of buffalo pox virus in rabbits: clinico-pathological studies. Acta Virologica, 30(5):390-395.

Debasis Jana, Mousumi Ghosh, 2008. Buffalo pox in bubaline species: a report. North-East Veterinarian, 7(4):28.

Dumbell K, Richardson M, 1993. Virological investigations of specimens from buffaloes affected by buffalopox in Maharashtra State, India between 1985 and 1987. Archives of Virology, 128(3-4):257-267; 22 ref.

Ghosh TK, Arora RR, Sehgal CL, Ray SN, Wattal BL, 1977. An investigation of buffalopox outbreak in animals and human beings in Dhulia District (Maharashtra State) 2. Epidemiological Studies. Journal of Communicable Diseases, 9:93-101.

Haddow JR, Idnani JA, 1949. Outline of Veterinary Science (ed., Minnett FC). Karachi: Government of Pakistan.

Hutrya F, Marek J, Manninger R, 1946. Special Pathology and Therapeutics of the Diseases of Domestic Animals. Volume 1, 5th edition. London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cox.

Jayaraman KS, 1996. Is buffalopox now a human disease? Nature Medicine, 2:497.

Karmakar A, Saha GR, 1989. Localised form of pox infection amongst buffaloes in West Bengal (India). Indian Journal of Animal Health, 28(1):85-87; 14 ref.

Katana RS, 1969. Antigenic analysis of buffalopox virus and its comparison with vaccinia and cowpox viruses., India: Punjab Agric. Univ, 1 p.

Kolhapure RM, Deolankar RP, Tupe CD, Raut CG, Basu A, Dama BM, Pawar SD, Joshi MV, Padbidri VS, Goverdhan MK, Banerjee K, 1997. Investigation of buffalopox outbreaks in Maharashtra State during 1992-1996. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 106(November):441-446.

Kumar A, Yadav MP, Chandra R, Garg SK, 1987. Clinico-etiological features of a pox outbreak among buffaloes. Indian Journal of Animal Health, 26(1):41-45.

Lal SM, Singh IP, 1977. Buffalopox - a review. Tropical Animal Health and Production, 9:107-112.

Mahmood MA, Shah MA, 1985. Out-breaks of pox like disease in buffaloes. Pakistan Veterinary Journal, 5(2):94-95; 1 ref.

Mallick KP, Rawany VS, Celly CS, 1990. A report on buffalo pox outbreak in Pathalgaon Block of District Raigarh (Madhya Pradesh). Indian Veterinary Journal, 67(12):1173-1174; 4 ref.

Manoharan S, Govindarajan R, Purushothaman V, Chandran NDJ, Prabhakar TG, 2009. Sensitivity of BHK<sub>21</sub> and Vero cell lines in preliminary isolation of buffalo poxvirus. Tamilnadu Journal of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, 5(1):25-27.

Mohan RN, 1953. Corynebacterium pyogenes mastitis following pox. Indian Veterinary Journal, 29:540-542.

Muraleedharan K, Raghavan R, Murthy GVK, Murthy VSS, Swamy KG, Prasanna T, 1989. An investigation on the outbreaks of pox in buffaloes in Karnataka. Current Research - University of Agricultural Sciences (Bangalore), 18(2):26-27.

Ramakrishnan M, Ananthapadmonabhan K, 1957. An experimental study of virus of buffalopox. Indian Veterinary Journal, 34:23-30.

Rana UVS, Garg SK, Rajesh Chandra, Varshiney KC, Rao VDP, 1988. Pathological studies on experimental buffalo-pox in buffaloes. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences, 58(1):63-67.

Rani NL, Manda Srinivas, Chand KP, Aruna P, 2006. Buffalo pox as a zoonotic disease. Intas Polivet, 7(2):352-353.

Sehgal CL, Ray SN, Ghosh TK, Arora RR, 1977. An investigation of an outbreak of buffalopox in animals and human beings in Dhulia District, Maharashtra. Journal of Communicable Diseases, 9:49-58.

Sharma GK, 1934. An interesting outbreak of variola vaccinia in milch cattle of Lahore. Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, Miscellaneous Bulletin, 8:1-4.

Sharma S, Singh KB, Bansal BK, Sharma DK, 2005. Clinical symptomatology and epidemiological observations on teat skin lesions in buffaloes. Buffalo Bulletin, 24(1):12-16.

Shchelkunov SN, 2013. An increasing danger of zoonotic Orthopoxvirus infections. PLoS Pathogens, 9(12):e1003756.

Singh M, Bhat PP, Mishra BP, Singh RK, 1996. Biological transmissibility of buffalopox virus. Journal of Applied Animal Research, 9(1):79-88.

Singh RK, Balamurugan V, Bhanuprakash V, Venkatesan G, Hosamani M, 2012. Emergence and reemergence of vaccinia-like viruses: global scenario and perspectives. Indian Journal of Virology, 23(1):1-11.

Singh RK, Balamurugan V, Hosamani M, Kallesh DJ, Bhanuprakash V, 2008. Sequence analysis of C18L gene of buffalopox virus: PCR strategy for specific detection and differentiation of buffalopox from orthopoxviruses. Journal of Virological Methods, 154(1/2):146-153.

Singh RK, Hosamani M, Balamurugan V, Bhanuprakash V, Rasool TJ, Yadav MP, 2007. Buffalopox: an emerging and re-emerging zoonosis. Animal Health Research Reviews, 8(1):105-114.

Singh RK, Hosamani M, Balamurugan V, Satheesh CC, Shingal KR, Tatwarti SB, Bambal RG, Ramteke V, Yadav MP, 2006. An outbreak of buffalo pox in buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) dairy herds in Aurangabad, India. Revue Scientifique et Technique - Office International des Épizooties, 25(3):981-987.

Tantawi HH, Fayed AA, Shalaby MA, Skalinsky EI, 1979. Isolation, cultivation and characterization of poxviruses from Egyptian water buffaloes. Journal of Egyptian Veterinary Medical Association, 37:15-23.

Tarang Goyal, Anupam Varshney, Bakshi SK, Sanjay Barua, Bera BC, Singh RK, 2013. Buffalo pox outbreak with atypical features: a word of caution and need for early intervention!. International Journal of Dermatology, 52(10):1224-1230.

Thachamvally Riyesh, Shanmugasundaram Karuppusamy, Bera BC, Sanjay Barua, Nitin Virmani, Sarita Yadav, Vaid RK, Taruna Anand, Manish Bansal, Praveen Malik, Inderjeet Pahuja, Singh RK, 2014. .

Venkatesan G, Vinayagamurthy Balamurugan, Manimuthu Prabhu, Revanaiah Yogisharadhya, Bora DP, Gandhale PN, Sankar MSS, Kulkarni AM, Singh RK, Veerakyathappa Bhanuprakash, 2010. An emerging and re-emerging zoonotic buffalopox infection: a severe outbreak in Kolhapur (Maharashtra), India. Veterinaria Italiana, 46(4):439-448.

Wariyar KC, 1937. Variola in buffaloes. Indian Veterinary Journal, 14:169-170.

Yadav S, Hosamani M, Balamurugan V, Bhanuprakash V, Singh RK, 2010. Partial genetic characterization of viruses isolated from pox-like infection in cattle and buffaloes: evidence of buffalo pox virus circulation in Indian cows. Archives of Virology, 155(2):255-261.

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