US Bans Civet Imports to Stop SARS Spread
Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht,
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Jan 13, 2004 -- As part of the national plan to prevent
the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today
announced an immediate embargo on importation of civets to the United States.
The small animals have been identified as a possible link to SARS transmission
"Public health experts are concerned that civets may transmit SARS to
humans, who may then pass it on to other people," Secretary Thompson said.
"This embargo will help us protect the American public and prevent
introduction of SARS in the United States."
The Nature of the Embargo
The embargo, which applies to
dead and live civets as well as civet products, will remain in place until
further notice. Civet products that have been processed to render them
noninfectious, such as fully taxidermied animals and finished trophies, are not
included in the embargo. The ban does not apply to those who received permission
from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention to import civet cats for educational or scientific purposes.
The Reason for the Embargo
Public health officials are concerned about the possibility that the
that causes SARS was originally transmitted from animals to humans, sparking the
2003 SARS outbreak in Asia. Growing indirect evidence suggests exposure to
certain wild animals may increase risk of infection. However, there is no
evidence that humans were infected with the SARS coronavirus from direct contact
with certain wild animals. Based on the limited data available, the most
appropriate action at this time is that the movement of civets should be
restricted and contact with them should be minimized.