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Issue Number 397            July 2, 2003


  1. CDC confirms monkeypox in rodents; issues interim recommendations to curb further spread


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July 2, 2003

On July 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a press release titled "CDC Confirms Monkeypox in Rodents; Interim Recommendations Aim to Curb Further Spread." The press release announces that CDC has confirmed the presence of monkeypox in six rodents. It also announces that CDC has issued interim guidelines that "attempt to balance the prudent use of quarantine and euthanasia of exposed animals with the goal of preventing additional infections among humans and other animals, as well as preventing monkeypox from being maintained in a new wild animal reservoir." Links to the interim guidelines are given toward the end of this article.

The press release is reprinted below in its entirety.


Press Release
For Immediate Release
July 2, 2003

CDC Confirms Monkeypox in Rodents
Interim Recommendations Aim to Curb Further Spread

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the presence of monkeypox virus in one Gambian giant rat, three dormice, and two rope squirrels. The animals were part of a shipment of African rodents imported to the United States on April 9, 2003. This shipment is believed to be the source of the current U.S. outbreak of monkeypox. As a result, CDC has issued guidance on the quarantine and euthanasia of all animals from the shipment, as well as prairie dogs from the United States that were exposed to the imported species or with other animals suspected to have monkeypox. These recommendations aim to prevent further spread of the monkeypox virus to humans and other animals.

"The goal is to protect people, pets, and wildlife in the United States, by preventing the monkeypox virus from spreading or becoming established permanently," said Dr. Martin Cetron, deputy director of the CDC's global migration and quarantine programs.

CDC, along with other federal agencies and state and local and health departments, is investigating 81 suspect and probable human cases of monkey pox. Thirty-two of those cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing.

As part of the emergency response to the monkeypox outbreak, CDC previously recommended that states place quarantines or hold orders on commercial or residential premises housing infected animals that had either been shipped from Ghana on April 9 or had been exposed to other animals with monkeypox. The newly released guidelines call for euthanizing these animals. All other animals on affected premises should be monitored for monkeypox and complete a six-week quarantine period starting from the time that the African rodents and the prairie dogs are destroyed.

While in quarantine, animals should be separated from people and either locked in a room or put in a cage or other suitable container. During this period, animals should be monitored for signs of illness including fever, cough, discharge from the eyes (eyes may appear cloudy or crusty), swelling in the limbs from enlarged lymph nodes, or a blister-like rash.

"These measures are essential in order to effectively address this public health issue," Dr. Cetron said. "This truly collaborative effort requires the support of public health officials, the pet industry, and pet owners to successfully contain this outbreak."

CDC also strongly cautions pet owners not to release infected or ill prairie dogs or any other animal that may be infected with monkeypox virus into the wild and not to destroy the animals or dispose of them in landfills. Instead, contact state health departments or departments of agriculture for guidance on the disposition of animals, or to address concerns about the health of exotic rodents or prairie dogs.

More information is available at the CDC web site:


To access the press release from the CDC website, go to:

On July 1, CDC issued "Interim Guidance to State and Local Governments for the Removal of State- and Locally Imposed Quarantine Orders and the Euthanasia of Animals Affected by the Monkeypox Outbreak."

To access an online copy of the interim guidelines, go to:

To access a camera-ready (PDF) copy of the interim guidelines, go to:

For more information about monkeypox, go to the CDC monkeypox web page at

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Editorial Information

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