Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Update: Ebola-Related Filovirus Infection in Nonhuman
Primates and Interim Guidelines for Handling Nonhuman Primates during Transit and
In November 1989, infections caused by a filovirus closely related to Ebola virus were
detected in cynomolgus (Macaca fascicularis) monkeys imported from the
Philippines and held in a primate quarantine facility in Virginia (1). One
hundred forty-nine persons who came in contact with infected animals or the blood or
tissues of these animals were placed under surveillance for 21 days after their last known
exposure, and all were tested for Ebola virus antibody. Active surveillance was
discontinued December 25. No illness compatible with that known to be caused by Ebola
virus has occurred among these persons, and none had antibody to Ebola virus. Twelve
nonhuman primates in two of 12 holding rooms in the Virginia facility were infected; these
and all remaining animals in the facility were euthanized, and the building was
decontaminated. Extensive investigation at transit points in Amsterdam and New York did
not implicate cross-infection of the monkeys by African primates.
In December, a telephone survey of 40 other U.S. primate importers identified another
shipment of cynomolgus monkeys that had arrived in Pennsylvania from the Philippines on
November 28 and in which a number of unexplained deaths had occurred shortly after
arrival. An Ebola-related filovirus was isolated from liver tissue of one of these
animals. The specific geographic origin within the Philippines of these animals is being
identified, and active surveillance has been initiated at the facility in Pennsylvania to
establish whether the virus has spread to other groups of monkeys or to human contacts. No
unusual illnesses in staff of the facility have been reported. Animals currently
quarantined are being tested for serologic evidence of Ebola virus infection.
Inspection of the four major holding facilities in the Philippines, including the
facility that had supplied the monkeys in Virginia, did not identify unusual illness
compatible with Ebola virus disease in either workers or nonhuman primates. The infected
animals had been captured from widely separated remote areas. Serologic and virologic
studies of animals and workers are under way in these and other facilities in the
Philippines. Reported by: RK Miller, MD, Fairfax Health District; JY Baumgardner, MAS, CW
Armstrong, MD, SR Jenkins, VMD, CD Woolard, MPH, GB Miller, Jr, MD, State Epidemiologist,
Virginia State Dept of Health. GG Wrigley, Buckshire Corporation, Perkasie; LD Polk, MD,
Bucks County Health Dept; DR Tavris, MD, State Epidemiologist, Pennsylvania State Dept of
Health. MEG Miranda, DVM, MM Dayrit, MD, Field Epidemiology Training Program, MC Saniel,
MD, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Philippine Dept of Health. Div of
Quarantine, Center for Prevention Svcs; Div of Global EIS, International Health Program
Office; Scientific Resources Program, Div of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Center for
Infectious Diseases, CDC.
Editorial Note: The episodes documented in Virginia and Pennsylvania
are the first known instances of Ebola-related filovirus infection in imported primates in
the United States. Numerous infectious agents, including other filoviruses, with a range
of pathogenic potential may be circulating in Africa, Asia, and other parts of the world.
The ecology, natural history, and mode of transmission in nature of Ebola virus and the
related Marburg virus are unknown. Humans have acquired the disease from nosocomial
transmission (often by contaminated needles) and from person-to-person transmission to
those in close contact with blood or secretions from seriously ill patients. The only
known episode of the transmission of a filovirus from monkeys to humans resulted from
direct handling, without protective measures, of blood and tissues from monkeys infected
in the wild by Marburg virus. Animal caretakers did not become infected (2).
The lack of human infection in these incidents suggests the effectiveness of the
quarantine measures instituted in 1975. Nonetheless, CDC has developed the following
interim guidelines that update and modify the procedures used in the transportation and
quarantine of nonhuman primates. These guidelines are intended for interim use. A
comprehensive set of guidelines will be developed by CDC, with input from organizations
and institutions involved in the transport, quarantine, care, and regulation of nonhuman
INTERIM GUIDELINES FOR HANDLING NONHUMAN PRIMATES DURING TRANSIT AND QUARANTINE
All imported nonhuman primates are quarantined for the first 31 days after arrival,
including transit time. Nonhuman primates, particularly those recently captured in the
wild, may harbor viruses infectious for humans. Although such viruses are usually present
in the animal's blood, they may be detected in urine, feces, or saliva. Those at risk for
infection include persons working in temporary or long-term holding facilities and persons
who transport animals to these facilities (e.g., cargo handlers and inspectors). Although
the risk for human infection from these activities is low, guidelines are useful to
minimize such risk in persons exposed to nonhuman primates during transport and
General Guidelines for Handling Nonhuman Primates during Transit and Quarantine
- Management of transportation and quarantine facilities should ensure that personnel are
instructed as to the hazards of handling nonhuman primates, that protective apparel is
available, and that the need for its use is understood. Management should provide periodic
retraining as well as reinforcement of these procedures.
- Persons working with nonhuman primates should not drink, eat, or smoke while handling
animals, cages, crates, or materials from such animals.
- Access to animal holding areas should be restricted to essential personnel. The number
of persons involved in the care, transport, and inspection of nonhuman primates should be
the minimum necessary to expedite efficient and humane handling.
- All staff in direct contact with animals should wear protective clothing (i.e., gloves
and surgical masks and gowns) when opening crates, removing foreign materials from crates,
feeding the animals, removing dead animals, or handling bedding materials. These persons
should remove disposable protective clothing before leaving the animal holding facilities;
this clothing should be autoclaved or incinerated. Nondisposable contaminated clothing
should be disinfected on site before laundering.
- Separate nonglass water bottles should be provided for each nonhuman primate during
transit and quarantine. Reusable items should be adequately decontaminated between uses.
- All animal waste, bedding, uneaten food, and other possibly contaminated items should be
treated with appropriate disinfectant before removal from the animal holding facilities.
All cages, feeding bottles, and other possibly contaminated items should be disinfected
between each use or before disposal. Glass items should not be used.
- A separate disposable needle and syringe (and, if required, infusion equipment) should
be used for each animal, then autoclaved or incinerated. A clean needle should be used for
any access to multidose vials (e.g., of ketamine) to avoid contamination. After each use
on a group of quarantined animals, multidose vials must be autoclaved and discarded.
Disposable supplies should be used whenever possible and must not be reused. Nondisposable
equipment should be thoroughly disinfected.
- Caution must be used to prevent infection from potentially contaminated needles,
scalpels, or other sharp instruments, particularly during disposal of needles. Used
needles should not be recapped by hand; removed from disposable syringes by hand; or bent,
broken, or otherwise manipulated. Only one set of disposable syringes, needles, and
scalpels should be used per animal. Used disposable syringes and needles, scalpel blades,
and other sharp items should be placed in puncture-resistant containers kept as close to
the work site as practical.
- Nonquarantined animals should never be placed in, or permitted access to, areas with
quarantined animals. This includes unrestrained pets, feral animals, and animals
temporarily boarded for overseas travelers or destined for export.
- Management should keep records of all serious febrile illnesses (fever >101.3 F (
greater than 38.5 C°) for >2 days) in persons having direct contact with nonhuman
primates in transit or in quarantine and should promptly notify CDC* if such an illness
occurs. Management should ensure that the physician providing care is informed that the
patient works with and/or has been exposed to nonhuman primates.
Additional Guidelines for Handling Nonhuman Primates during Transit
- Persons who handle crates or pallets containing nonhuman primates should be protected
with elbow-length reinforced leather gloves, long-sleeved shirts and trousers of
sufficient thickness to resist minor tears, and sturdy waterproof shoes or boots. The
gloves should be of a thickness that prevents penetration of splinters or other crating
debris. During warm weather, garments may be of lightweight materials to minimize
discomfort. Disposable coverall suits can be used for added protection.
- Crates should be free of sharp projections that can cause scratches or wounds to
workers. Handles should be present on the sides of crates, and mechanical lifting and
transporting devices should be used whenever possible.
- Crates containing nonhuman primates should be separated by a physical or spatial barrier
from all other animals and cargo at all times.
- Wherever possible, nonhuman primates should not be handled directly. Live animals should
be removed from cages only when staff can be supervised by a qualified veterinarian.
Procedures that may result in bites or scratches should be avoided.
- Management of holding facilities should maintain records to document the removal of dead
animals; documentation should include the date, shipment num ber, country of origin,
species, importer, and disposition of the removed animal. The carcass must be placed in
waterproof double bags and incinerated. The Division of Quarantine, Center for Prevention
Services (CPS), CDC, should be notified.
- Temporary holding facilities should document all injections or parenteral infusions
administered to nonhuman primates.
- If animals are removed from a shipment while in transit, facilities retaining these
animals should ensure full compliance with these guidelines and should maintain records on
the care and disposition of animals. Temporary facilities holding animals in this way must
be registered as importers of nonhuman primates.
Additional Guidelines for Care of Nonhuman Primates during Quarantine
- Quarantine facilities should be secure, with access limited to authorized, trained, and
- Quarantine facilities should be designed to be adequately disinfected. Management and
staff should refer to the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (3)
and the CDC/National Institutes of Health Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical
Laboratories, second edition (Animal biosafety level 2, p. 52) (4), for
information on design and operation of animal holding facilities. Staff should use
protective clothing, gloves, and masks at all times when in the animal holding facilities;
these items should be disinfected or disposed of properly.
- Staff should use fresh clothing when going from room to room.
- Adequate equipment and space should be available for discarding and disinfecting all
equipment, clothing, and caging.
- Care should be taken to avoid scratches and bites of animals. All handling of individual
animals should be done while the animals are anesthetized or tranquilized, and animals
should be maintained in squeeze-back cages wherever possible.
- Different lots of primates should not be mixed while in quarantine (minimum 31 days).
- Management should notify the Division of Quarantine, CPS, CDC, of severe illnesses and
deaths in recently imported primates. CDC will advise management on collection of
specimens for investigation of cause of death.
- CDC. Ebola virus infection in imported primates--Virginia, 1989. MMWR
- Martini GA, Siegert R, eds. Marburg virus disease. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1971.
- National Institutes of Health. Guide for the care and use of laboratory animals.
Bethesda, Maryland: National Institutes of Health, 1985:43-8; document no. 85-23.
- CDC/National Institutes of Health. Biosafety in microbiological and biomedical
laboratories. 2nd ed. Bethesda, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services,
Public Health Service, 1988; DHHS publication no. (CDC)88-8395.
*Program Operations Branch, Division of Quarantine, Center for Prevention Services,
telephone (404) 639-1437; Special Pathogens Branch, Division of Viral and Rickettsial
Diseases (DVRD), Center for Infectious Diseases (CID), telephone (404) 639-1115;
Epidemiology Activity Branch, DVRD, CID, telephone (404) 639-3091; and the Animal
Resources Branch, Scientific Resources Program, CID, telephone (404) 639-1320.
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