The latest Monkey Pox outbreak brings up many issues with having pets and with importing pets. Zoonosis is the word we use to describe transmission of disease from animal to human. There are many well described zoonoses and Monkey Pox is not the first or the worst. There is also an issue with importing a pet rather than obtaining one from within the country. Using Prairie Dogs as an example: the diseases that a local animal will transmit are vastly different that what can be transmitted from another country. When obtaining any pet, it is important to speak to your veterinarian and become acquainted with your animal's health and possible risks to you or your family. Most diseases that our cats or dogs can get are well known to us and can easily be vaccinated against or treated. That is not necessarily true for an import.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) only regulates importation of cats, dogs, turtles, and monkeys. Until just recently, there were no restrictions on importation of rodents. I am not aware of any quarantine rules either. Some import animals such as birds require a mandatory quarantine. The quarantine is a good step but it does not completely stop all transmission. Some animals are asymptotic hosts and will not become ill. They carry the virus and then pass it on.
Some recommendations before obtaining an exotic pet: Do your research. This may include calling the public health office, using the internet, using the library, and consulting with your veterinarian. You must also research the country or origin. Deal only with a reputable dealer. As always, education is the best prevention.
Dr. Joan Pellegrini, MD