More Monkeypox Virus Cases Reported

CDC Issues Advisory on Handling Sick Animals

From the WebMD Archives

June 19, 2003 -- With more cases of humans infected with monkeypox virus being reported, it's doubtful that bans on exotic animals will be changed any time soon.

The CDC continues to urge exotic pet owners to keep careful watch over their animals, and to report any that show signs of monkeypox virus.

"We have optimism that this particular outbreak of monkeypox can be contained," says CDC director Julie Gerberding, MD, in a news conference today. "But clearly we learn as we go, and we must continue to alert pet owners, pet shop owners, and will continue to work to round up all the infected animals."

New Cases

Thus far, 87 cases of human infection are under investigation -- 28 in Wisconsin, 24 in Indiana, 19 in Illinois, four in Ohio, one in Kansas, and one in Missouri, says Gerberding. Twenty cases have been confirmed, she says.

"We are involved in a very aggressive investigation of the animal sources of these outbreaks, looking at where animals came from, which animals were most likely the cause of the problem, and where the ongoing risk of exposure is," she says.

"No cases of person-to-person transmission have been identified to date, although that has been observed in other parts of the world," says Gerberding.

Some 20 people have received the smallpox vaccination, which is thought to prevent monkeypox in many cases since monkeypox virus is similar to smallpox.

The vaccinations are given to health-care workers who may be treating people hospitalized with monkeypox, family members of people sick with monkeypox, and people who have had contact with sick prairie dogs or other animals confirmed to have monkeypox.

Exotic Animal Ban Continues

Prairie dogs are not the only animals susceptible to monkeypox virus. However, they are the only animals that have been exposed to imported animals carrying the monkeypox virus, Gerberding says.

"I'm not willing to say when the ban on exotic animals and prairie dogs will be lifted or altered," she says. "I think the FDA will be giving a final rule on managing animals that are boarded and moving animals from one jurisdiction to another. We're seeing fewer and fewer reports of infected animals, and are making sure to prevent further spread."

As it stands now, there is:

  • An embargo on import of rodents from Africa. Rodents from Africa are believed to have carried monkeypox to the U.S.
  • A ban on sale or transportation of these rodents in the U.S.
  • A ban on sale or movement of prairie dogs between states or within state boundaries.

Symptoms to Look For

Doctors, veterinarians, and public health officials on the local level are important cogs in working with the CDC in containing the virus, Gerberding says.

Symptoms of monkeypox in animals that have been observed in this outbreak, the CDC says, include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Discharge from the eyes (eyes may appear cloudy or crusty)
  • Swelling in the limbs from enlarged lymph nodes
  • A bumpy or blister-like rash
  • Pets that have monkeypox also may appear to be very tired and may not be eating or drinking

If your pet could have been exposed to a sick animal and is showing the symptoms of monkeypox, follow these CDC instructions:

  • Separate the animal from people and other animals immediately and keep it isolated.
  • Wash your hands well after contact with the animal and any object it had contact with.
  • Inform your state or local health department that you think you have a pet with monkeypox.
  • Do not take your pet to a vet without calling first. The vet must take precautions to receive your pet.
  • After taking the pet to the vet, clean thoroughly anything the pet may have come in contact with.

If your pet has potentially been exposed to monkeypox, but is not showing symptoms of the disease, it still needs to be watched for signs of illness, the CDC says.

Exposure is defined as living in the same house with, or coming from the same pet store or other pet facility as, an animal known to have monkeypox virus. Your pet must be observed for 30 days to be certain it is not infected.

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SOURCES: Julie Gerberding, MD, director of CDC. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 20, 2003. CDC Fact Sheet: "What Pet Owners Should Know About Monkeypox."
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