Possum pox breaks out in Clinton


Health officials investigating an outbreak of possum pox that apparently spread from a single possum in Clinton, Tennessee said yesterday the number of reported cases has risen to at least 14.

The outbreak illustrates a growing problem: picking possums from the road without knowing how long they have been dead, a trend that some medical specialists call a serious public-health threat. Not properly cleaning pots used for boiling possums is also contributing to the problem.

Such diseases can become a threat not just to the people who eat possum, but to the general public if they eat with utensils improperly cleaned after a possum dinner. Health officials in Clinton, Oak Ridge, and Maryville are working frantically to ensure that the sudden spike in possum-pox cases is stopped.

This is the first time that possum pox, a chicken pox-related virus normally found in coal mining communities, has appeared in Tennessee, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.