What’s next after monkeypox?
In a short period between 2000–2004, US Fish and Wildlife Service reported that more than 1 trillion animals were imported into the United States. Only 900 million fish, 26 million amphibians, 9 million reptiles, 2 million birds, and 200 000 mammals, including exotic animals, insects, and snakes, arrived in the US in five years.
In 2006, Paris Hilton was under attack; the pet originated from tropical rainforests and is closely related to raccoons that bit her. Kinkajou Baby Luv was deemed healthy, and Paris Hilton received a tetanus shot. However, after some media attention, the exotic pet trade came under severe scrutiny. Imported exotic animals could pose a risk to humans.
In 2022, the risk is still hugely underestimated.
In 2003 an outbreak of human monkeypox first occurred in the United States. Seventy-two people got sick: rash, fever, chills, headache, sweats, and cough were the symptoms. Patients affected by monkeypox in the US had a very unusual rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, a typical presentation of orthopoxviral infection. However, the first human infection with the monkeypox virus was detected in 1970 in the rainforest of Africa.
US monkeypox outbreak was traced to an April 2003 shipment of approximately 800 small mammals (Gambian giant pouched rats, rope squirrels, dormice) from Ghana. When transported together, Gambian giant pouched rat infected pet prairie dogs. In short five weeks followed the prairie dog’s unfortunate infection, the first human case was detected. People who infected prairie dogs bit became very ill. Even friendly contact with the prairie dogs did cause human disease.
In some cases, the virus infects the central nervous system. A US-based 6-year-old girl had developed a fever, sore throat, and headache. She later became sleepy and unresponsive and suffered seizures; the monkey virus traveled into the brain and caused a brain infection. She recovered fully, and the human-to-human transmission of monkeypox did not occur.
Consequently, a ban on importation and limits on the sale or transport of exotic pets was proposed back in 2003.