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Indiana State Board of Animal Health

BOAH > Species Information > Companion Animals > Monkey Pox Monkey Pox

Is there monkeypox in the United States?
In early June 2003, monkeypox was reported among several people in the United States. Most of these people got sick after having contact with pet prairie dogs that were sick with monkeypox. This is the first time that there has been an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States.

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease found mostly in regions of Africa. The virus is considered a foreign animal disease in the United States.

In early June 2003, the first U.S. cases of monkeypox were reported in humans in the Midwest. Public health investigations revealed most of these individuals were sickened after having contact with prairie dogs.

Further investigation traced the source of infection to a shipment of exotic rodents from Africa, imported into the United States. Once in this country, the monkeypox-infected African rodents where commingled with native American prairie dogs as they were sold to pet shops and animal dealers, then consumers in several states. Some of those prairie dogs, which had never before been exposed to this virus, died, while others became ill. Even apparently healthy-looking prairie dogs proved to be harboring the monkeypox virus and were capable of spreading the disease to other animals and their handlers.

As a result, the Food and Drug Administration issued a federal, nationwide ban on the sale, exhibition and transport of prairie dogs. Indiana took similar action, in an emergency rule. While Indiana's state rule has expired, the federal ban remains in place and applies to all prairie dog owners nationwide.

More information on the FDA restrictions is available by clicking here >> FDA Restrictions

Other links

Centers for Disease Control Monkeypox page