Zoonoses Found In Smuggled Animals

Most emerging infectious diseases are caused by zoonotic pathogens. The number and proportion of these diseases that originate in wild animals in particular has increased substantially in the past few decades.

The United States is the world's largest wildlife importer and imports billions of individual animals. Little disease surveillance is conducted for imported animals; quarantine is required for only wild birds, primates, and some ungulates arriving in the United States, and mandatory testing exists for only a few diseases (psittacosis, foot and mouth disease, Newcastle disease, avian influenza). Other animals are typically only screened for physical signs of disease, and pathogen testing is delegated to either the US Department of Agriculture (for livestock) or the importer. Imported wild animals represent a potential source of zoonotic pathogens. The most widespread microbes of risk zoonoses were rabies virus, Bacillus anthracis (57), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Echinococcus, and Leptospira. Animals capable of harboring the greatest number of risk zoonoses were dogs, cats, cats, horse, donkeys, monkeys and hares. Wildlife importation also poses a great threat to domestic wildlife and the US agriculture industry. Therefore, to ensure public safety, immediate proactive changes are needed at multiple levels.

Risk Zoonoses And Their Associated Clinical Syndromes In Humans


  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus: Aseptic meningitis
  • Cercopithecine herpesvirus-1 (herpes B): Encephalitis
  • Nipah virus: Encephalitis
  • Rabies viruses: Encephalitis
  • Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus: Encephalitis
  • Tick-borne encephalitis virus complex: Encephalitis or hemorrhagic fever
  • Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus: Hemorrhagic fever
  • Ebola viruses: Hemorrhagic fever
  • Lassa fever virus: Hemorrhagic fever
  • Marburg virus: Hemorrhagic fever
  • Rift Valley fever virus: Hemorrhagic fever
  • South American hemorrhagic fever arenaviruses: Hemorrhagic fever
  • Hantaviruses associated with HFRS: Hemorrhagic fever with nephropathy
  • Hantaviruses associated with HCPS: Severe respiratory syndrome
  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) virus: Severe respiratory syndrome
  • SARS virus (or SARS-like CoV): Severe respiratory syndrome
  • Yellow fever virus: Systemic illness or hemorrhagic fever
  • Monkeypox virus: Systemic illness or rash
  • South American arenaviruses: hemorrhagic fever


  • Brucella species: Systemic illness
  • Coxiella burnetii: Systemic illness
  • Leptospira species: Systemic illness
  • Bacillus anthracis: Varies by site of infection
  • Burkholderia mallei: Varies by site of infection
  • Francisella tularensis: Varies by site of infection
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex: Varies by site of infection
  • Yersinia pestis: Varies by site of infection


  • Echinococcus: Hydatid cyst disease

Many diseases are transmitted through the same species of parasites carried by imported animals. For example, from November 1994 to January 1995, US Department of Agriculture personnel inspected 349 reptile shipments from 22 countries containing 117,690 animals. Ticks were removed from animals in 97 shipments, and infested shipments included 54,376 animals. Ticks carry many diseases that threaten livestock and human health, including heartwater disease, Lyme disease, and babesiosis.


  1. Risk of Importing Zoonotic Diseases through Wildlife Trade, United States. Boris I. Pavlin, Lisa M. Schloegel, Peter Daszak
  2. Wildlife Trade and Global Disease Emergence. William B. Karesh et al.

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