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EU bans rodent imports following monkeypox outbreak
Brussels - June 2003

Following the outbreak of monkeypox in the US, the EU has now banned all imports of prairie dogs from the US. The decision was made soon after it became evident that pet prairie dogs had been linked to at least 81 human cases of the rare contagious disease. Most of the people infected by the disease apparently caught it from their pet prairie dogs.

The EU has also banned imports of other exotic animals, squirrels and other non-domestic rodents from the sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is believed to have originated. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the States has apparently confirmed that the monkeypox outbreak came from six African rodents that arrived on a ship from Ghana three months ago. Other reports claim that the prairie dogs became carriers of the disease after contact with a Gambian rat, a fellow inmate at a pet shop. The US Government has also enforced a ban on imports of African rodents and ordered the destruction of the infected animals.

The highly contagious Monkeypox is related to smallpox and chickenpox and in humans it apparently causes rashes, fevers and chills. The death rate among those with monkeypox in Africa is apparently between 1 to 10% and mainly affects the young. This is apparently the first time this disease has been identified in the Western Hemisphere.

The incident has highlighted the need for greater regulation and control of trade in exotic animals and rigorous screening to ensure the risk from disease is reduced.

References:

"Exotic-pet distributor offers to help aldermen" Linda Spice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (4 July 2003)

"The bad and ugly of exotic pets". CBS News, USA (25 June 2003)

"EU bans imports of prairie dogs after U.S. monkeypox outbreak" Canada Press (16 June 2003)

"Owning exotic pets carries risks" Charity Vogel, The Buffalo News (14 June 2003)

"Prairie dog sickness may be monkeypox" Todd Richmond, The Associated Press (June 2003)

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