In the 11 days since the crash of a truck transporting 100 monkeys from Mauritius to Pennsylvania, a woman who approached the crates of monkeys scattered on the highway was treated for possible symptoms of illness.
And Kenya Airways, which would have flown the monkeys to the United States, has decided not to renew its expiring contract to ship research primates here.
No other reports of possible illness related to the accident have been reported, according to state and federal health officials, who said it was not known if the Pennsylvania woman’s symptoms were related to cynomolgus macaques, which were quarantined and monitored for disease.
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 on Tuesday she received two doses of the rabies vaccine, antiviral medication and antibiotic eye drops after experiencing a runny nose, cough and an accumulation of dandruff and a crust in his eye. She also vomited over the weekend, she said, possibly from the antiviral drugs.
She said her eye had improved a lot and she “felt better”, although she still felt “uncomfortable”.
She said she was awaiting the results of a blood test for ape-borne diseases and was grateful for the advice she received from Dr Lisa Jones-Engel, a primate scientist who works with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has long opposed primate research and asked two federal agencies to investigate the accident.
Ms Fallon said she was driving home on January 21 in Montour County, about 150 miles northwest of Philadelphia, when she saw the accident, in which a dump truck hit a pickup truck that was was carrying a trailer with the macaques. The monkeys had arrived at Kennedy International Airport in New York and were on their way to a quarantine facility.
Ms Fallon stopped to see if anyone had been injured and found crates strewn across the roadway.
A passerby told her that some cats might be inside, she stuck her finger in one and saw brown fur. When the animal made a “weird noise”, she brought her face closer to see better. It was then, she says, that she realized that it was not a cat but a monkey that was “hissing” at her. She said she felt a mist.
She also walked in monkey feces, she said.
That night, she went to a party with people who later tested positive for 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 accident, but were quickly found and “humanely euthanized”, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, without giving further details.
The CDC referred questions about Ms Fallon’s condition to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and her physician, saying he “does not provide clinical care to individuals.”
Barry Ciccocioppo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said in an email: “It is not known if this individual’s condition is related.”
“We take any reports of exposure to these non-human primates very seriously,” Ciccocioppo said. “The Department of Health recommends anyone who believes they have been exposed to a non-human primate to contact their healthcare provider.” The doctor can then consult with the department about the risks and the best treatment, he said.
Ms. Fallon’s doctor’s office referred questions to Geisinger’s health system, which 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 respiratory and eye protection should monitor 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. He said surviving monkeys would be quarantined and monitored for infectious diseases for at least 31 days.
Mr Ciccocioppo described the letter as “a precautionary letter and a standard letter used in such incidents”.
Valley Township Fire Department chief Michael L. Kull said he and other emergency personnel responding to the crash did not get close enough to the monkeys to risk any type of infection.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we will be cautious,” he said, but added he was not worried. “I haven’t lost any sleep.”
Dr Christine Petersen, director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa, said serious illnesses like monkeypox and Ebola are rare in cynomolgus macaques, but “precautions should be taken” by anyone who might have come into contact with one.
“A cornered monkey is not the nicest of creatures,” she said. “If they’ve been bitten or spat on, that’s worrying.”
“But what are the odds that three random monkeys could somehow spread something dastardly to a first responder?” added Dr. Petersen. “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 a person who has been too close to a wild animal like a macaque receives treatment for any infection, the risk of it spreading to other people is low.
Public health concerns were not the only fallout from the crash.
After PETA contacted Kenya Airways, the company said last week that it would not renew its contract to carry macaques when it expires this month. In doing so, he joins several airlines, including major US carriers, that have refused to transport animals used in medical research.
PETA claimed victory in a press release. He also called on the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Transportation to investigate the accident, warning of a dangerous lack of oversight of primate transport.
“American laboratories have been unable to prevent tuberculosis, cholera, campylobacteriosis, Chagas disease or other deadly pathogens from infecting the monkeys they cage and experiment on. “, said Dr. Jones-Engel in a statement, “and they still put these monkeys on trucks that travel our highways all over the country.