To: Media Contacts
From: Thomas J. Rowell DVM, President/COO
Date: 12 February 2016
Re: Zika Virus
Recently the World Health Organization declared a “public health emergency of international concern” over the Zika virus and the health problems that doctors fear it’s causing. The agency said the emergency is warranted because of how fast the mosquito-borne virus is spreading and its suspected link to babies born with birth defects.
The Florida health department has identified 18 Zika virus cases statewide, all which have been related to travel. Florida health officials have yet to identify a single case related to vector (mosquito) transmission.
As a result of reports that the vertebrate hosts of the virus is monkeys, with an enzootic mosquito- monkey-mosquito cycle, questions have arisen regarding the housing and importation of non-human primates and the potential exposure risk to the public.
Primates imported into the United States undergo a mandatory 31-day quarantine after importation. This quarantine is done in an enclosed building or in a screened enclosure that keeps the animals away from mosquitoes. People working with the imported primates must wear personal protective equipment that includes coveralls, eye protection, and respiratory protection. Based on the research available, any animal that enters quarantine with a Zika virus infection or is exposed to Zika virus should have cleared the infection by the end of the quarantine period. Therefore, there should be no risk of infecting local mosquito populations from imported animals.
It is also important to note that if Zika virus was spreading in people in areas where primates are housed outdoors, the animals could be infected with the virus. In this case organizations with outdoor housing would work with state and local authorities to develop a mosquito surveillance and management program at the facility to prevent the possible spread of Zika virus.
Research utilizing primates and other animal models will be necessary for defining and understanding the pathogenesis of the virus, for establishing better diagnostics for detecting infection, and in vaccine development for disease prevention. Primate Products Inc. will continue to provide critical resources that contributes to this and other research aimed at improving upon human health.