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Monkeypox Home

Press Release

July 3, 2003 Contact: CDC Media Relations

CDC Confirms Monkeypox in Rodents
Interim Recommendations Aim to Curb Further Spread

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.

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, 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,” Dr. Cetron said. “This truly collaborative effort requires the support of public health officials, the pet industry, and pet owners to successfully contain this outbreak.”

On June 11, 2003, CDC and FDA issued a joint order prohibiting the importation of six African rodent species (Tree squirrels, Rope squirrels, Dormice, Gambian giant pouched rats, Brushed-tailed porcupines and Striped mice) as well as the sale, transport, and distribution of prairie dogs and the six types of African rodents implicated in the current monkeypox outbreak. The joint order also prohibits releasing infected or ill prairie dogs or any other animals that may be infected with monkeypox virus into the wild or disposing euthanized animals in landfills. Instead, pet distributors or owners should contact state health departments or departments of agriculture for guidance on the disposition of animals.

More information is available at the CDC web site:

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