In the 11 days since a truckload of 100 monkeys from Mauritius crashed in Pennsylvania, a woman who got close to the scattered crates of monkeys on the highway has been treated for possible symptoms of illness.
And Kenya Airways, believed to have transported the monkeys to the United States, has decided not to renew its expiring contract to transport research primates here.
State and federal health officials said there are no other reports of possible illnesses linked to the crash, who said it was unknown whether the Pennsylvania woman’s symptoms were related to the cynomolgus macaques, which were quarantined and checked for diseases.
Experts said direct exposure to monkey saliva or feces could be dangerous, but the risk of a wider outbreak was low.
The woman, Michele Fallon, 45, of Danville, Pennsylvania, said Tuesday she received two doses of the rabies vaccine, antiviral medication and antibiotic eye drops after developing a runny nose, cough and filmy buildup and scab. her eye. She also vomited on the weekend, she said, possibly because of the antiviral medication.
She said her eye was much better and she was “feeling better,” although she still felt “nauseous.”
She said she was awaiting the results of a blood test for monkey-borne diseases and was grateful for the advice she had received from Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, a primate scientist who works with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has long opposed primate research and has asked two federal agencies to investigate the crash.
Ms. Fallon said she was driving home to Montour County, about 150 miles northwest of Philadelphia, on Jan. 21 when she saw the crash in which a dump truck hit a pickup truck carrying a trailer carrying the macaques. The monkeys had arrived at New York’s Kennedy International Airport and were on their way to a quarantine facility.
Mrs. Fallon stopped to see if anyone was injured and found crates scattered across the road.
She told a bystander that there might be cats inside, she stuck her finger in it and saw brown fur. When the animal made a “weird noise,” she brought her face closer to get a better look. At that moment, she said, she noticed that it was not a cat but a monkey, ‘hissing’ at her. She said she felt a fog.
She also got into monkey droppings, she said.
That evening, she went to a party with people who later tested positive for the coronavirus, she said. Ms Fallon said that although she had tested negative herself, the series of events added up to “the worst day of my life.”
Three of the monkeys escaped after the crash, but were quickly found and “humanely euthanized,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, without providing further details.
The CDC referred questions about Ms. Fallon’s condition to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and her physician, saying it “does not provide clinical care for individuals.”
Barry Ciccocioppo, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said in an email, “It is not known whether that person’s medical condition is related.”
“We take any report of exposure to these non-human primates very seriously,” Mr Ciccocioppo said. “The Department of Health recommends anyone who believes they have been exposed to a non-human primate contact their health care provider.” The doctor can then talk to the department about the risks and the best treatment, he said.
The medical practice of Mrs. Fallon referred questions to Geisinger’s health system, who did not immediately respond to an email and phone call.
In a letter to authorities after the crash, the CDC said anyone within five feet of the monkey crates without breathing and eye protection should check themselves for signs of illness such as fever, fatigue, cough, diarrhea and vomiting.
The letter noted that monkeys and humans are naturally susceptible to many of the same diseases. It said the surviving monkeys would be quarantined and monitored for infectious diseases for at least 31 days.
Mr Ciccocioppo described the letter as “a precautionary measure and a standard letter used in such incidents.”
Michael L. Kull, the chief of the Valley Township Fire Department, said he and other rescuers responding to the crash didn’t get close enough to the monkeys to risk any kind of infection.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we will be cautious,” he said, but added that he was not concerned. “I have not slept.”
dr. Christine Petersen, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa, said serious diseases such as monkeypox and Ebola are rare in cynomolgus macaques, but “precaution should be taken” by anyone who may have come into contact with one.
“A cornered monkey is not the friendliest of all creatures,” she said. “If they’ve been bitten or spat on, that’s a concern.”
“But what are the chances that three random monkeys could somehow spread something dastardly to a first responder?” dr. Petersen added. “It’s not high.”
dr. Suresh V. Kuchipudi, a clinical professor in the department of veterinary and biomedical sciences at Pennsylvania State University, said that as long as someone who has been too close to a wild animal like a macaque is being treated for an infection, the risk of spreading to other people is low.
Public health concerns were not the only impact of the crash.
After PETA contacted Kenya Airways, the company said last week it would not renew its contract to transport macaques if it expires this month. In doing so, it joined several airlines, including major US carriers, which have refused to transport animals used for medical research.
“U.S. labs have been unable to prevent tuberculosis, cholera, campylobacteriosis, Chagas disease, or other deadly pathogens from infecting the monkeys they cage and experiment with,” said Dr. Jones-Engel in a statement, “and they’re still putting these monkeys on trucks driving our highways across the country.”