CDC halts importation of civets to prevent SARS

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The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has banned the importation of civets to prevent the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The ban took effect Jan. 13 and will continue until further notice.

The CDC's embargo on civets is a response to a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests civets may play a role in the spread of the SARS virus. In the Jan. 23 issue of the Federal Register, the CDC described some of the evidence linking civets and the SARS virus.

According to published scientific articles, a SARS-like virus has been isolated from civets captured in the area of China where the 2002-2003 outbreak began. During the initial SARS outbreak investigation, several cases were reported among restaurant workers and others who had handled wild animals. Subsequently, two studies found higher rates of seropositivity against the SARS virus in wild animal traders.

Epidemiologic analysis indicates the outbreak originated in several municipalities, with no clear person-to-person transmission. Assuming the disease passed from animal to human, this suggests the virus jumped the species barrier more than once, according to the CDC.

For more information, contact Paul Arguin at the National Center for Infectious Diseases of the CDC, Mailstop C-14, 1600 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA 30030; phone, (404) 498-1600.