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No monkey business!

Published:Saturday | January 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Hall, Senior Gleaner Writer

THE MINISTRY of Agriculture is warning against the importation of monkeys and other exotic animals as pets.

This comes in the wake of recent reports that an illegally imported pet monkey bit a child in an upscale St Andrew community.

The child has since been taken to the United States for medical treatment.

Pushed into action by the reports, the ministry yesterday issued a reminder that the importation of exotic pets, including monkeys and snakes, is illegal.

Persons found with these pets can be prosecuted and fined or imprisoned.

life-threatening illnesses

The agriculture ministry also warned that exposure to monkeys could lead to a number of life-threatening illnesses, including viral hepatitis, monkey pox and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) - a retrovirus closely related to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

"The potential for SIV-induced disease in humans is not clear, but because of the virus's close relationship to HIV - its ability to the infect human tissues and blood - it should be considered hazardous," the agriculture ministry said.

Persons in possession of monkeys or other exotic pets have been given a February 15 deadline to make arrangements for the animals to be safely removed from their premises.

The ministry also urged persons who may have been in recent contact with the animal to contact their medical doctor, a medical officer, or the Ministry of Health immediately, "as they may have been exposed to infections with zoonotic agents".

Individuals in possession of these animals must contact:

1) Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' Veterinary Services Division at 977-2489/92 or 927-0594.

2) The National Environment and Planning Agency by calling 754-7540 or 1-888-991-5005.

3) Nearest veterinarian.