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The monkey question: Why were there Pender County deputies at Camelia Drive in Rocky Point on April 24?

John Peaspanen
StarNews

Bites from monkeys like this Tonkean Macaque, from Lakeland, Fla., have been linked to Hepatitis B. Photo courtesy of the Lakeland Ledger.

Pender County officials say they weren’t being cruel when they made Elvis leave the building.

On April 24, in response to multiple bite reports, Pender County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control removed a pet monkey named Elvis from the home of Nancy Browning, 68 Camellia Drive.

Under orders from State Veterinarian David Marshall, Animal Control Officer Lt. Keith Ramsey and several deputies removed the male Macaque monkey from the home. Authorities said the animal had bitten a neighbor for the second time in two months.

According to Ramsey, the Macaque had bitten the woman once and her son twice. The first bite occurred on Feb. 3 and was reported Feb. 6. The second bite was reported April 21. Ramsey said a third bite occurred sometime between the dates of the first two bites but was unreported by the victim.

“This monkey has bitten three times in two months,” said Ramsey. “It had obviously become a health hazard.”

After the first incident, the Macaque had been quarantined in the Browning home for 30 days for observation. After an investigation and the quarantine, Ramsey said all appeared to be acceptable with the monkey. Then, a few days prior to the removal, PCSO received the report of another bite.

At that point, state authorities stepped in and ordered the euthanization of the monkey and testing for rabies.

“The health director received a letter from the state vet, authorizing to euthanize,” Ramsey said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that vaccination and containment could have prevented.”

Though it is believed that Elvis did not have rabies, a bite could have still led to infection with Hepatitis B. A previously-published report by the Centers for Disease Control specifically outlined the risk of B-virus infection from pet Macaque monkeys.

“B-virus from Pet Macaque Monkeys: An Emerging Threat in the United States?” states, “Of primary concern when evaluating Macaque bites are bacterial and B-virus infections. B-virus infection is highly prevalent (80 percent to 90 percent) in adult Macaques. The virus must be assumed to be a potential health hazard in Macaque bite wounds; this risk makes Macaques unsuitable as pets.”

The CDC report said Macaque bites may cause potentially fatal infections of the brain and central nervous system in humans.

The report supports the actions of Pender’s Animal Control and the state vetinarian, stating, “Both veterinary specialists and breeders of nonhuman primates agree that as a rule, all these animals bite. Biting incidents eventually bring the animals to the attention of animal control authorities. Most state health departments can require that any biting non-domestic animal be euthanized and the brain be submitted for rabies testing.”

The close bond formed by owners and pet Macaques can lead to serious health hazards, according to the CDC.

The report continues, “Owners of pet Macaques are often reluctant to report bite injuries from their pets, even to their medical care providers, and may fail to appreciate that the premonitory headache and flu-like symptoms could be associated with healed, often minor, bite wounds dating back more than a month.”

Ramsey could not speculate as to what, if any, medical treatment the victims sought for their wounds. The victims’ names were not provided.

Numerous attempts were made to contact Browning for this story. She was unavailable for comment.

Pender Health Director Carolyn Moser said Pender County does not have regulations for the keeping of exotic animals. Responsibility for establishing regulations on exotic pets would fall to the county commissioners.

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