Monday, November 27, 2006

Best Stick With Pups and Kittens

Want a pet for the kids? Do them a favour and stick with dogs or cats instead of the exotics. You may regret it if you don't.

The Associated Press reports that, "..exotic animals captured in the wild are streaming across the US border by the millions with little or no screening for disease."

More than 650 million critters - from kangaroos and kinkajous to iguanas and tropical fish - were imported legally into the United States in the past three years, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

``A wild animal will be in the bush, and in less than a week it's in a little girl's bedroom,'' said Darin Carroll, a disease hunter with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Zoonotic diseases - those that jump to humans - account for three quarters of all emerging infectious threats, the CDC says. Five of the six diseases the agency regards as top threats to national security are zoonotic, and the CDC recently opened a center to better prepare and monitor such diseases.

"The Journal of Internal Medicine this month estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died.

"U.S. experts don't have complete totals for Americans, but partial numbers paint a serious picture:

-Hantavirus, which is carried by rodents and can cause acute respiratory problems or death, has sickened at least 317 Americans and killed at least 93 since 1996.

-More than 600 people have been sickened since 2000 with tularemia, a virulent disease that can be contracted from rabbits, hamsters and other rodents. At least three people have died.

"Some of the scariest diseases to emerge since 2001 also have been tied to exotic animals: One of the first times the deadly Asian bird flu reached the West was in eagles smuggled aboard a plane to Europe. Likewise, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, is believed to have jumped to people from caged civet cats in a Chinese market. The cats are believed to have gotten the virus from bats."

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