Along the Tracks

Friday, June 20, 2003

Monkeypox Update

I've been updating this post regularly, but I'm not sure the link at left has always been working - sorry, I'm still learning the blog thing a year and a half later!

Anyway, it does seem like the CDC is getting a handle on the monkeypox outbreak. Even so, I'll keep my eyes open and let you know when something of interest appears - particularly inside the tri-state area. - P.M., June 20, 2003.

The outbreak of monkeypox in the United States has many potential threads of interest - public health, bioterror preparedness, exotic pets, combating viral diseases and probably quite a few others I have not yet considered. Right now, it seems like the coverage is pretty, well, confusing and disjointed. Some reports say it is as contagious as smallpox, others, barely contagious at all. Most cite a 1-10% mortality rate, although one study indicated mortality as high as 37.5% in Africa. The TV networks did their expected fear-mongering type stories, while regional newspapers centered on human interest (“Poor little girl has monkeypox,” etc.).

Early on, I was impressed by how quickly the Centers for Disease Control had identified and responded to the first few monkeypox cases. However, only time will tell if that quick identification was followed by measures stringent enough to cut the transmission lines. I’m starting to have my doubts, a few of which I mention below. But this post isn’t going to be about my opinions, primarily, but rather, a resource of information for those seeking to understand this illness, the problems it poses, and how to protect one’s own family and community.

The Centers for Disease Control has now banned the sale and transport of not only prairie dogs, but several other genera of rodents. The ban order says “at least six different species of potentially infected rodents have been implicated in the current outbreak of monkeypox virus in humans.” The genera included in the ban are Heliosciurus, Funisciurus, Graphiurus, Cricetomys, Atherurus and Hobomys, all of African origin, along with prairie dogs (Cynomis).

Of note is that the experts are unsure just which mammals are particularly susceptible to the virus. According to the CDC, “all mammals should be considered susceptible at this time.” That is a major concern, as cutting off the transmission lines becomes that much more difficult if a wide variety of mammals can become infected carriers. Frankly, I am surprised the CDC has not ordered at least a temporary halt in the sale of all rodents, rabbits and primates (monkeys, lemurs, etc.) in states where monkeypox has been identified until it gets a handle on this issue.

This story is particularly important here in northwest Ohio, as cases in the region have been identified, and the back-tracing of contacts is likely to lead to nearby doorsteps. It also appears prairie dogs from the original pet distributor were sold in Allen County (Lima). Last week, we learned of two possible cases of monkeypox in Ohio, one in Butler County and the other in Putnam County - right here in northwest Ohio. Both are adults and tests are continuing. I’ll update this as information becomes available.

I’ve put together a roundup of the news coverage, as well as more detailed information on the virus itself, its relationships, its methods of transmission, its symptoms upon infection, and the prognosis of those infected. Any other related items I run across will be posted here as well. If you notice something related to monkeypox not already linked below, please
e-mail the information and link to me

Steer clear of exotic pets, says The Blade.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette wants regulation of pet swap meets.

AP Story on CDC director calling monkeypox “new normal.”

Iowa bioterror response team part of monkeypox vaccination effort.

Boston Globe on added stigma of owning rats.

AP story in Appleton Post-Crescent updating total Wisconsin cases at 37 possible, 7 confirmed.

AP says few getting smallpox vaccine to protect against monkeypox.

Still no confirmation on Butler County (Ohio) potential case.

Congress has been spurred to pass bioterror funding.

Washington Post syndicated story about animal-disease links.

Chicago Sun-Times story on monkey owners lamenting bad “PR.”

Greeley (Colo.) Tribune, with a different perspective on prairie dogs.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Good Housekeeping) on exotic pets and illnesses.

Fox News says one prairie dog was a "super-carrier."

WXIA Atlanta discusses the "new norm" of exotic viruses.

Appleton (Wisc.) Post-Crescent says health workers' illness probably not monkeypox.

Dayton Daily News on suspect wallaby visiting a school.

Indy Star says Indiana cases reduced to 26.

VOA on animal import, health policy changes nationally.

Lima News story on Putnam County case.

Ohio News Network story on Ohio cases.

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette update on Indiana’s large caseload (info on vaccination as well).

AP story on healthworker infections.

New York Times latest story (June 13).

Chicago Beacon News, includes point that disease could spread to wild animals.

San Francisco Chronicle on prairie dog sales ban.

Cleveland Plain Dealer monkeypox articles.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on exotic pets and disease

USA Today on use of vaccines against monkeypox.

CDC - Monkeypox homepage.

Illinois Department of Public Health. A press release on the original investigation into the monkeypox infections.

CDC - Prairie dog (and selected other rodents) sales ban order.

National Alternative Pet Association. Information on exotic pets in general. The store which sold the original prairie dogs infected with monkeypox is listed as a sponsor. This site’s news links have not recently been updated.

Centers for Disease Control - Monkeypox Facts.

CDC - Monkeypox Q & A.

Stanford’s information site.

CDC’s study of African outbreak, 1996-97.

CDC’s treatment information (pdf).

Ohio Dept. of Agriculture monkeypox bulletin.

Exotic Hobbyist discussion. This forum for owners and dealers has an ongoing discussion of the monkeypox outbreak as it relates to prairie dog ownership.

The Indianapolis Star calls for greater regulation of exotic pets.

Washington Post on exotic animal imports.

CDC - Guidance on identifying monkeypox in animals.

CDC - Guidance for pet handlers.

Congress has been spurred to pass bioterror funding.

UPI’s Steve Mitchell says monkeypox shows gaps in readiness. links on monkeypox.

U.S. Army Medical - Monkeypox as a bioweapon.

J.P. Dudley - Looks at the interplay of emerging diseases and bioweapons.

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