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Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Update: Filovirus Infection in Animal Handlers

Since November 1989, seven shipments of cynomolgus monkeys imported from three suppliers in the Philippines have been actively infected with filovirus (1,2). Transmission among monkeys in quarantine facilities has occurred; many of the animals have died. Limited laboratory experience with this filovirus suggests that it is antigenically and genetically distinguishable from the African members of the filoviridae, even though there is some cross-reactivity between this virus and Ebola virus strains.

Five animal handlers at a quarantine facility that received five shipments of infected animals had a high level of daily exposure to these animals. Four of these persons have serologic evidence of recent infection, as detected by immunofluoresence and Western blot tests, with a strain of filovirus isolated from the infected monkeys. Three of the four have seroconverted since November 1989. The fourth, for whom only one serum sample is available, has filovirus-specific IgG and IgM serum antibody. None of the four have had an unexplained febrile illness since November 1989.

Of the animal handlers who seroconverted, one cut his finger while performing a necropsy on an infected animal. Daily monitoring of this person following that exposure did not detect antigenemia (3). Laceration is the presumed mode of transmission for this person; a mode of transmission has not been determined for the other three. 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. PE Rollin, MD, PB Jahrling, PhD, TG Ksiazek, DVM, CJ Peters, MD, US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Frederick, Maryland. Div of Quarantine, Center for Prevention Svcs; Div of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: The specific biologic characteristics of this filovirus (e.g., infectivity and pathogenicity in humans) cannot be readily extrapolated from past experience with the virulent viruses isolated from human epidemics in Africa. However, the findings in this investigation demonstrate that although this filovirus can infect, it appears to have lower pathogenicity for humans than does its African counterparts. The high level of transmission to animal handlers in this single facility and the possibility of importation of other virulent viruses underscore the importance of strict adherence to quarantine measures for handling monkeys.

In collaboration with other institutions in the United States and in endemic areas, CDC will continue to study these viruses. In addition, CDC will continue to monitor and regulate the quarantine facilities that import nonhuman primates into the United States.

References

  1. CDC. Ebola virus infection in imported primates--Virginia, 1989. MMWR 1989;38:831-2,837-8.

  2. CDC. Update: ebola-related filovirus infection in nonhuman primates and interim guidelines for handling nonhuman primates during transit and quarantine. MMWR 1990;39:22-4,29-30.3. Jahrling PB, Geisbert TW, Dalgard DW, et al. Preliminary report: isolation of Ebola virus from monkeys imported to USA. Lancet 1990;335:502-5.

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