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EU bans imports of prairie dogs after U.S. monkeypox outbreak

June 17th, 2003, 10:15 PM
Canadian Press

BRUSSELS (AP) - The European Union banned imports of prairie dogs from the United States on Monday following an outbreak of monkeypox there that has spread to humans.

The EU also banned imports of squirrels and other non-domestic rodents from sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease originated. In the United States, 12 human cases have been confirmed in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois, along with 71 suspected infections. Prairie dogs are believed to have become infected in a pet shop through a Gambian rat imported from Africa.

The disease, which is related to chickenpox and smallpox, had never before been seen in the Western Hemisphere. There are no cases in the 15-nation EU, the union said in a statement.

In Africa the death rate among those with monkeypox ranges from one to 10 per cent, with the highest rates among young children. Officials say the virus may be less lethal in the United States because of better nourishment and medical technology.

No one has died so far from the outbreak, which was first detected last month.

EU officials said about 1,000 prairie dogs were imported into the EU last year, mainly to the Netherlands where they are sold as pets or zoo attractions.

The Canadian Press