EXOTIC PETS: UNSCREENED IMPORTS CARRY VIRULENT DISEASE

November 30, 2006

Millions of exotic pets from Africa, Asia and South America are imported into the United States with little or no screening for disease, "leaving Americans vulnerable to a virulent outbreak that could rival a terrorist act," says the Associated Press. 

  • According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, legal wildlife trade in the United States has more than doubled over the past 15 years, and "countless more" animals are smuggled across the borders as part of an international black market. 
  • The trade has prompted concern from scientists who say such animals have viruses and bacteria humans can contract, such as herpes B, tularemia, salmonella and hantavirus. 
  • According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), zoonotic diseases -- which pass from animals to humans -- account for 75 percent of all emerging infectious threats and are among five of the six diseases the agency considers as top threats to national security.
  • The Journal of Internal Medicine recently estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and that as many as 78,000 of those people have died. 

Although CDC recently opened a center to monitor such diseases, U.S. defenses against zoonotic diseases "are a bureaucratic nightmare," largely because laws "are outdated and no single agency is responsible" for outbreak prevention, says the Associated Press. 

Source: Margaret Ebrahim and John Solomon, "Millions of exotic pets and little disease

Screening; Is this a disaster in the making?" Associated Press/ESPN, November 27, 2006.

 

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