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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection discovered 100 porcupine quills in passenger baggage on April 21, 2021 at Washington Dulles International Airport. African porcupine quills are prohibited as potential vector for diseases, such as monkeypox virus. (CBP Photo/Handout)

Customs agents at Washington Dulles International Airport recently seized 100 porcupine quills that may pose an animal and human threat for the monkeypox virus.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists found the quills and an ivory bottle opener after the traveler, a U.S. citizen, arrived on a flight from Africa on April 21.

The traveler was stopped for a secondary examination after they declared possessing an animal horn, Customs and Border Protection said in a news release. On April 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised CBP agents to seize the quills as a potential vector for the monkeypox virus.

The United States last experienced a monkeypox virus outbreak in 2003, the CBP said. According to the CDC, 47 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox were reported from six states—Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Investigators determined that a shipment of animals from Ghana, imported to Texas on April 9, 2003, introduced monkeypox virus.

Following that monkeypox virus outbreak, the CDC prohibited the importation of all African rodents into the United States, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale, distribution, transport, or release into the environment of prairie dogs and six specific genera of African rodents within the United States

CBP released the traveler and turned the quills over to the CDC.

“Travelers should be aware that those seemingly safe animal souvenirs they purchase overseas may accidentally introduce animal diseases that could devastate our livestock industries, sicken our citizens, and impact our nation’s economy,” Keith Fleming, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office, said in a statement. “Customs and Border Protection remains on our nation’s frontline as protectors of our agricultural resources, and we will continue to work with our partners to intercept all potential threats at our nation’s ports of entry.”


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