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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Prairie Dog Owners at Risk for New Disease

Aired June 11, 2003 - 19:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to check in now on an effort to fight the spread of monkey pox. Now reported 50 cases. The U.S. government is recommending using smallpox vaccine on people exposed to the new virus. Now experts say the vaccine could prevent Monkey Pox up to two weeks after exposure.
Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more on this latest development -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the results today from health and human services, secretary Tommy Thompson, he has banned...

COOPER: We're obviously having some problems, Elizabeth. I don't know if you can hear me. We're having some problems with your mic. We're going to go to a quick break and get that sorted out and talk to you when we come back. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: OK. I want to talk about Monkey Pox a little bit.

Now as I said before, in an effort to fight the spread of Monkey Pox, now there are a reported 50 cases in the U.S., the government is recommending using smallpox vaccine on people exposed to the new virus. And experts say the vaccine could prevent Monkey Pox, and this is important, up to two weeks after exposure.

Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more on the development. We believe her mic works. Elizabeth, thanks for being with us.

What do we need to know?

COHEN: Well, Anderson, what you need to know is that if you think you have been exposed to Monkey Pox. For example if you're a pet store owner who was handling prairie dogs, which are the carriers of Monkey Pox, then perhaps you need to talk to your doctor about possibly getting a smallpox vaccine. The vaccine could be dangerous, but Monkey Pox could be far, far worse.

The CDC said today that a very small, select group of people could be getting the smallpox vaccine so that they won't actually get Monkey Pox or won't get terribly ill or even die from Monkey Pox.

In addition, today Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson says that he will banning the sale of prairie dogs. Now, prairie dogs are called that. They're actually rodents and the reason why it's the prairie dogs who seem to be giving this to people. There are now 54 cases that are under investigation in the United States. There you see the little prairie dogs. These are exotic pets. They are imported from Africa and in addition the secretary of health and human services actually banned the sale of six other African rodents. In Africa, this disease has been around for decades.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID FLEMING, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CDC: There are lots of reasons why things may be different here including improved medical treatments, better nutrition. In some cases that may be optimistically a worst-case scenario, but we do need to be prepared for the fact that Monkey Pox can be a fatal disease and in fact it's because of that consideration that our experts that advise us felt that it was prudent to go ahead and recommend vaccination for people who have could be exposed to or who have been potentially exposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Now the prairie dogs actually were not imported from Africa, but they were in a Texas facility with another kind of animal that was imported from Africa and they believe that that's how this all started -- Anderson.

COOPER: And symptoms of Monkey Pox?

COHEN: Yes, let's go through the symptoms. They are actually very similar to the symptoms of smallpox. Let's go through the list here: fever, cough, headaches are, muscle aches, rash, and enlarged lymph nodes. The enlarge lymph nodes is actually what sets it apart from Monkey Pox and these are the symptoms that people should watch out for.

If you've had a prairie dog as a pet and you start to have those symptoms, you need to call your doctor. If your animal seems to be ill, do not let the animal back out in the wild. The animal could then spread the disease to other wild animals you certainly don't want that to happen.

Now here's how animals give it to humans. Animals bite humans or have direct contact with the animal's lesion or the animal's body fluid. And that's how they believe that the prairie dogs have been giving it to human beings.

COOPER: Now, Elizabeth I've got to say we're going to end this, but I'm a little bit of a hypochondriac. In fact, those symptoms you mentioned, I've got every one of them, but this is really only people who -- I mean, they're so general, anyone could say they have them. It's only for people who come in contact with these prairie dogs, right?

COHEN: Absolutely. All of the cases that they've had have been people that have come in contact with these prairie dogs. Pet owners or people who own pet stores. Those sort of people. COOPER: All right.

COHEN: And again, the symptoms here, you see them, I know this sounds like something that a lot of people get. But you're really pretty sick. This is not your basic flu.

COOPER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks a lot for the clarification.

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