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CDC Pulls Registration Of 3 Monkey Importers Over Virus Scare

March 24, 1990

ATLANTA (AP) _ The national Centers for Disease Control halted imports by three of the nation’s largest monkey dealers effective today amid concerns over the spread of deadly Ebola virus in monkeys in at least two research centers. CDC Director William L. Roper said CDC inspectors had found ″inadequate″ isolation and quarantine conditions at the three suppliers this week.

The concerns arose after Ebola virus - known in pre-AIDS days as the deadliest virus in the world - was spotted in the United States in November in three monkeys at the Hazleton supplier in Virginia. In January, an Ebola- related virus turned up in a monkey in a Pennsylvania laboratory.

″Humans can be infected but it’s not very common,″ said Dr. Susan Fisher- Hoch of the CDC.

Medical researchers and drug manufacturers on Friday urged Roper not to ban imported lab monkeys, saying that could set back efforts to find cures for AIDS and other serious diseases.

Roper said in notices Thursday to Worldwide Primates of Miami, Charles River Primates Corp. of Port Washington, N.Y., and Hazleton Research Products Inc. of Reston, Va., that effective today, ″your registration to import non- human primates into the United States will be revoked.″

The three are among four importers who handle 90 percent of U.S. monkey imports, CDC officials said. The fourth supplier was inspected and found to be in compliance with CDC guidelines, and no action has been taken there.

Dr. W.E. Tucker Jr. of the pharmaceutical giant Burroughs Wellcome Co. argued against a ban during a special CDC meeting.

″If a ban is put into effect it will seriously affect our efforts to develop agents to treat very serious diseases,″ he said.

Monkeys often are used for AIDS research, and banning them could cut AIDS research by 50 percent, said Dr. Frederick King, director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Center in Atlanta.

″I’m for not throwing out the baby with the bath,″ King said.

″We must take all precautions ... but we must not needlessly sacrifice the research which depends on these primates,″ said Dr. Vance Gordon of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

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