Questions and Answers on Executive Order and Interim Final Rule

What action has CDC taken?

On January 13, 2004, CDC issued an order for an immediate ban on the import of all civets. CDC took this step because civets potentially can infect humans with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What animals are subject to the order?

Civets, also known as civet cats, are banned from import to the U.S. The order forbids any person from importing or seeking to import any civet from anywhere in the world. The order applies to civets that are living or dead and any products made from civets.

Why does the order apply to civets, but not other animals?

A SARS-like coronavirus has been isolated from many palm civets (Paguma larvata). The virus taken from civets closely matched virus samples taken from humans. Small numbers of other animals have shown proof of infection with SARS-like coronaviruses, but so far the best existing data suggests that civets are likely carriers of SARS.

In 2001-2002, 98 civets were imported into the United States (44% from Asia). Most, if not all, were imported for private ownership. Introducing non-native animals like civets into the United States can cause outbreaks of disease in humans. CDC is banning imports of civets to reduce the chance of the spread of SARS in the U.S. Importation of civets infected with SARS would present a public health threat. Banning the import of civets is an effective way of limiting this threat.

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Why does the order apply to import of all civets worldwide?

Infected civets from SARS-infected areas could be shipped to foreign countries where SARs is not a concern, then imported into the United States. If this happens, inspectors in the United States may have no way of knowing that the infected civets came from a SARS-infected area. For this reason, the order prohibits the importation of any civet from anywhere in the world.

Are there any exceptions to the order?

Yes. This prohibition does not apply to any person who imports or attempts to import products made from civets if such products have been properly processed to make them safe so that they pose no risk of transmitting or carrying the SARS virus. Also, this ban does not apply to any person who gets permission from CDC to import civets or unprocessed products from civets for educational, exhibition, or scientific purposes as those terms are defined in CDC regulations (42 CFR 71.1).

How can products from civets be made safe so that they pose no risk of transmitting or carrying the SARS virus?

If products derived from civets are properly processed to render them safe, they pose no disease risk. The accepted processes for making sure that civet products are safe to use include:

  • Heat (heated to an internal temperature of 70°C or placed in boiling water for a minimum of 30 minutes);
  • Preservation in 2 percent formaldehyde;
  • Chemically treating in acidic or alkaline solutions (soaking in a solution below pH 3.0 or above pH 11.5 for 24 hours); or
  • The use of hypertonic salts.

In addition, properly stuffed civets and completely finished trophies present no disease risk and therefore may be imported without written permission from CDC.

These products are subject to inspection, however, to ensure that they are properly processed.

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What is HHS’ authority for taking this action?

These actions are based upon provisions in Title 42 United States Code Section 264 (Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act) which authorize HHS to make and enforce regulations needed to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of diseases from foreign countries into the United States , or from one State or possession into any other State or possession. CDC has implemented this statute through regulations, and those that specifically authorize the order can be found at 42 CFR 71.32(b).

Who will enforce the provisions of the order?

CDC will work with other federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior, who have legal responsibility for enforcing the importation embargos.

What are the consequences of violating the order?

CDC is most concerned with making sure people comply with the order as a way of preventing the spread of SARS virus infection to humans and other animals. However, people who violate the order may be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties.

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