How Did The US Contain A Previous Monkeypox Outbreak?

Until recently, monkeypox has been a virus largely associated with Africa. That changed in 2003, when the U.S. experienced an outbreak of monkeypox when 47 people contracted the virus after handling exotic pets shipped from overseas. The outbreak was contained to Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 800 animals arrived in Texas from Ghana on April 9, 2003. Subsequent testing showed that among those, two African giant pouched rats, nine dormice, and three rope squirrels tested positive for the monkeypox virus.

Before the infected animals showed any signs of sickness, they were shipped to a facility in Illinois that sold animals where they were kept near prairie dogs. As a result, the prairie dogs became infected before they were sold. From there, the prairie dogs infected humans. The first person to be infected was a schoolgirl who was exposed to a sick prairie dog her family had purchased, per The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), infections began in late May of 2003.

Officials implemented a plan of containment

It took officials a few weeks to determine what they were dealing with. Doctors ruled out smallpox due to the number of ill animals. The CRS reports that on June 7, 2003, they identified the virus as monkeypox. Armed with that information, the CDC, along with the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and other health departments joined forces to prevent the virus from spreading.

For starters, the CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center, and placed doctors and experts at the scene to help investigate the cases and help contain the virus. The smallpox vaccine was administered to those who were considered to be at risk for exposure. Animals and humans thought to be exposed to monkeypox were tested. Officials also issued safety guidelines for the community to follow. In addition, the trade and sale of exotic animals was prohibited. Some states even prohibited the sale of prairie dogs, and a number of sick animals were euthanized (via the CRS). While monkeypox has a mortality rate of 1% to 10%, there were no fatalities in 2003, per Infection Control Today