US Bans Civet Imports to Stop SARS Spread

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and 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 in China.

"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.

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