An Ounce of Prevention

Monkeypox entered America by way of exotic species imported primarily for the pet trade (see Summer 2003 AWI Quarterly). After more than 70 people contracted the disease and approximately a dozen people required hospitalization including two children who needed intensive care, the federal government temporarily banned import of a small number of exotics who were known to contract monkeypox.

This inadequate, short-sighted approach fails to deal with the larger and potentially more deadly threat posed by other diseases carried by exotic wildlife, imported in vast numbers from across the globe. In addition, the plan is proscriptive rather than preventative: it addresses disease outbreak after its arrival in the US instead of keeping diseases from ever entering the States.

In an effort to tackle this issue, AWI President Cathy Liss offered the following resolution at the annual meeting of the United States Animal Health Association in October 2003 where it was duly adopted.

The United States Animal Health Association (USAHA) recommends that the Secretaries of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Interior and appropriate state agencies work together to identify the need and develop strategies to control the importation and interstate movement of exotic and wild animals, and to recognize and prevent the introduction of exotic diseases in order to safeguard both humans and animals from exotic, emerging, and resurging diseases.

The response, if any, from federal agencies remains to be seen; hopefully, it won't follow a deadly epidemic.