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WASHINGTON, July 2 (AFP) - US federal health authorities said Wednesday that a shipment of African rodents imported as pets was the source of a monkeypox outbreak that sickened more than 80 people.
The shipment "is believed to be the source of the current US outbreak of monkeypox," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
More than 80 people in eight central US states were suspected of having contracted monkeypox through contact with prairie dogs exposed to the imported rodents. It was the first such outbreak in the Western Hemisphere.
Tests confirmed the presence of monkeypox in one Gambian giant rat, three dormice, and two rope squirrels shipped April 9 from Ghana to a US pet store.
Health officials now are recommending that affected animals be quarantined and killed to stem the spread of the disease.
"The goal is to protect people, pets and wildlife in the United States, by preventing the monkeypox virus from spreading or becoming established permanently," said Martin Cetron, deputy director of the CDC's global migration and quarantine programs.
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