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WASHINGTON, D.C. and ATLANTA -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the presence of monkeypox virus in one Gambian giant rat, three dormice and two rope squirrels. The animals were part of a shipment of African rodents imported to the United States on April 9, 2003. This shipment is believed
to be the source of the current U.S. outbreak of monkeypox. As a result,
CDC has issued guidance on the quarantine and euthanasia of all animals from
the shipment, as well as prairie dogs from the United States that were
exposed to the imported species or with other animals suspected to have
monkeypox. These recommendations aim to prevent further spread of the
monkeypox virus to humans and other animals.
"The goal is to protect people, pets and wildlife in the United States, by
preventing the monkeypox virus from spreading or becoming established
permanently," said Dr. Martin Cetron, deputy director of the CDC's global
migration and quarantine programs.
The CDC, along with other federal agencies and state and local and health
departments, is investigating 81 suspect and probable human cases of monkey
pox. Thirty-two of those cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing.
As part of the emergency response to the monkeypox outbreak, the CDC previously
recommended that states place quarantines or hold orders on commercial or
residential premises housing infected animals that had either been shipped
from Ghana on April 9 or had been exposed to other animals with monkeypox.
The newly released guidelines call for euthanizing these animals. All
other animals on affected premises should be monitored for monkeypox and
complete a six-week quarantine period starting from the time that the
African rodents and the prairie dogs are destroyed.
While in quarantine, animals should be separated from people and either
locked in a room or put in a cage or other suitable container. During this
period, animals should be monitored for signs of illness including fever,
cough, discharge from the eyes (eyes may appear cloudy or crusty), swelling
in the limbs from enlarged lymph nodes, or a blister-like rash.
"These measures are essential in order to effectively address this public
health issue," Cetron said. "This truly collaborative effort requires
the support of public health officials, the pet industry, and pet owners to
successfully contain this outbreak."
The CDC also strongly cautions pet owners not to release infected or ill prairie
dogs or any other animal that may be infected with monkeypox virus into the
wild and not to destroy the animals or dispose of them in landfills.
Instead, contact state health departments or departments of agriculture for
guidance on the disposition of animals, or to address concerns about the
health of exotic rodents or prairie dogs.