Responses to:

20/20 11-17-99 Segment 
"Monkey Business"

November 17, 1999
To 20/20: 
"An honorable news station and its reporters would have presented a more unbiased story in reference to the primate portion of your broadcast. I did not see any information on the Helping Hands program out of Boston. They use capuchin monkeys who are in close direct contact with people in a category of being easily infected with any contagious disease. People with quadriplegia place their very lives in the hands of these trained monkeys with the blessing of our society. Doctors in Georgia actually prescribe a black and white capuchin named Dr. Irving to children in the pediatric ward as a highly desirable alternative therapy. I saw none of those monkeys mentioned. Are some people above the scrutiny of the supposed experts? If you are going to inform the public it is only ethical that you provide all aspects of the subject, otherwise you are no better than a cheap rag paper."

The scare tactics used to portray the personal agenda of one sector of our society are questionable. If this group had their way we would all be placed in individual protective bubbles for our safety. This would mean:

No more horses, as horseback riding might cause you to be thrown and incur broken bones, a head injury or worse yet death. Check out the horse/person/vehicle injury statistics at: 

Equestrienne Injured in Fall from Horse 
California -- The Riverside Press-Enterprise carried a story on September 23 about 38- year-old woman who was hospitalized in critical condition with head injuries she suffered when she fell off a horse. The accident occurred about 5 p.m. on her property. She was taken by helicopter to the hospital.

Injured Rider Victorious in Grand Prix 
United Kingdom - The Belfast News Letter carried a story on June 21, 1999 by Ruth Loney about the victory of Trevor Coyle soon after his serious injury: Just a month after being seriously injured when a horse kicked him at his home at Annaghmore, Trevor Coyle won the most exciting Grand Prix in the world.

Injured Rider Airlifted for Treatment 
United Kingdom - The Newcastle Herald carried a story on June 21, 1999 about a rider who suffered a head injury in an accident: A 31-year-old Singleton woman was ... flown to the John Hunter Hospital after she suffered head injuries when she was thrown from a horse on a private property north-west of Singleton. The accident happened about noon. Hospital staff said the woman was in a satisfactory condition.

No more dogs, they bite, have been known to kill people and can be a carrier of rabies if not inoculated. 
Harold Weiss, M.S., M.P.H., and colleagues, formerly from the Center for Injury Research and Control, University of Pittsburgh, PA. describe the incidence and characteristics of dog-bite injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments (EDs). The authors are now with the Center for Violence and Injury Control, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Pittsburgh. 
Based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey for 1992-1994 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they estimate that dog bites are annually responsible for: 
-- nearly 4.5 million injuries 
-- 20 deaths 
-- nearly 334,000 visits to hospital emergency departments 
-- more than 21,000 visits to medical offices and clinics 
-- more than 670 hospitalizations 
-- about 3.73 million non-medically treated injuries 
-- 914 new dog bite injuries requiring ED visits per day
The authors estimate that with more than one-third of American households owning a dog, there are more than 50 million dogs in the U.S. They add that dog bites occur because the domesticated dog still retains many of its wild instincts, including behaviours that all too often lead to human attacks.

Nearly every puppy is born with roundworms contracted from its mother. These worms can be transmitted to people, especially children. Most infections in people are so mild as to cause no signs at all, but the potential for severe illness exists. Migrating worms may damage the liver, eyes or brain. Because the eggs are transmitted in the puppy's stool, sanitation is essential; feces should be removed and disposed of daily and everyone who handles the puppy should wash their hands frequently. This is especially important in young children, who often put their fingers in their mouths. 

Another zoonotic skin condition in dogs is sarcoptic mange or scabies. This mite burrows under the skin, and causes severe itching, scabs, and hair loss. In extreme cases, the dog may even have a generalized illness. Skin scrapings to find and identify the mite are often negative. In humans, a pinpoint red rash is often found on the chest and abdomen.

Ringworm is not a worm at all, but a fungal infection of the skin. It can be difficult to diagnose in animals, as the lesions do not look the same from case to case. Some animals, especially cats, can carry the fungus in their hair coat without showing signs of itching, scaly skin, and hair loss. In people, the classic lesion is a raised, reddened, and itchy "ring."

No more cats, they are carriers of a toxic substance that is very debilitating, causing "cat scratch fever". 
Additionally an article by Dr. Michael Richards, DVM states: 
" Toxoplasmosis is a disease that can be transmitted from cats to humans (although other infection routes such as undercooked meat are much more frequent). If a pregnant woman is infected with this parasite for the first time during a pregnancy the effect on the baby can be severe. Your wife should not handle the litterpan during the pregnancy and should wash her hands after handling your cat. Toxoplasmosis is much more likely to occur in outdoor cats as it is transmitted to the cat through hunting of small animals. 

There are conditions cats can have which are transmissible to infants or even older humans under some circumstances. Ringworm,a fungal infection, is one example of a zoonotic (transmissible to people) disease that affects cats. Toxocara infestation (roundworm infection) is another. The best way to avoid this is to have your vet check your cat's stool for roundworms and treat if they are present. In some cases it is just easier to go ahead and treat for these worms -- such as very young cats. Allergies to cats can occur but it seems more reasonable to wait and see if that is a problem than to get rid of the cats on the off chance that might occur. There is no evidence to support old wive's tales about cats "sucking the breath" from infants but it is a good idea to keep cats from sleeping with an infant. They will sometimes choose to sleep on the infant and that may lead to problems. In addition, children should never be left alone with a cat because either one could be hurt if the child grabs the cat too hard or engages in some activity the cat finds threatening and chooses to retaliate against. Finally, keep your cat's rabies vaccination up to date. This is an unlikely problem in an indoor cat but it is a terrible disease and it is best to be cautious -- and it is also the law in most places now."

No more pet birds, they can carry diseases such as Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC), psittacosis (parrot fever), and Salmonella that are the primary diseases associated with pet birds that can be potentially transmitted to humans. Allergic alveolitis can also develop in sensitive humans. MAC (Mycobacterium Avian Complex - also known as Atypical Mycobacterium - a disease similar to Tuberculosis) is most commonly acquired from the environment, can cause a variety of symptoms and is suspected to be involved with AIDS wasting syndrome. MAC is a lifelong infection, which can be reactivated as the immune system deteriorates. There are now drugs that can help control human infections of MAC. 

Psittacosis produces flu-like symptoms and is usually accompanied by a dry, nonproductive cough and fever. Psittacosis can be acquired multiple times. 

Salmonella causes fever and gastrointestinal symptoms including stomach cramps and diarrhea. Salmonella infections can occur repeatedly and infected person can become a chronic carrier without showing any symptoms. 

Allergic alveolitis produces coughing and difficulty breathing. Allergic alveolitis is a progressive respiratory diseases and can be alleviated by total avoidance of bird dander, feathers and in some cases poultry products.

No more Reptiles, they can carry many potential pathogens (disease causing organisms) that under the right conditions can cause infections in humans. Domestically-bred reptiles may harbor fewer pathogens and other parasites if the breeder screens new stock and practices good sanitation, Therefore these reptiles should be considered less likely to transmit zoonotic disease, but one should still practice all the hygienic safeguards when handling any reptile. Bites and even superficial scratches should be treated as contaminated wounds and scrubbed thoroughly with soap and water then treated with an antiseptic. One should consider consulting a physician since antimicrobial therapy and a tetanus vaccination may Se necessary. It should be noted that the recovery of a pathogen from a reptile does not necessarily mean that it will be passed onto the human handler. Further, if no pathogens are recovered from a reptile, this does not mean that it is necessarily "clean." The reptile may be a carrier that is not shedding.

No more aquarium fish, they can occasionally be the source of infectious diseases. Mycobacterial infections (a type of tuberculosis) can be transmitted by aquarium fish and some skin infections can be spread by contact with infected aquarium water. Mycobacteriosis and nocardiosis are bacterial diseases that affect a wide range of freshwater and marine fish, but particularly aquarium fish. The bacteria cause chronic systemic infections that form lesions internally and externally. Several species of these bacteria are capable of infecting man. The bacteria enters the skin as a result of abrasions incurred in swimming pools, tropical fish aquaria or from handling guts of infected fish, and may produce skin granulomas of the elbow, knees, fingers and feet. The condition may persist for quite some time and must be treated with antibiotics for an extended period. 
Three to four weeks after the bacteria enters the skin, a swelling develops over a bony prominence or the site of an abrasion. A cyst, or abscess develops, that may be filled with pus and may ulcerate and scar. Swelling of the lymph nodes may occur. 
Treatment with some antibiotics is possible, but tests are usually required to determine the sensitivity of the bacteria to the antibiotic to be administered. Spontaneous cures may take up to two years, although most signs clear in a few months. 
Ensure adequate chlorination of swimming pools. Wear protective gloves when cleaning fish aquaria or diving. If infected stock are suspected, wear protective gloves when cleaning and filleting fish and disinfect equipment afterwards. 

No more bunnies, the Pasteurella bacteria carried by most rabbits may infect scratches or bite wounds. Scratches and bite wounds should be immediately washed and disinfected. Some external parasites of the rabbit including fur mites and ringworm (a type of fungal infection) may be transmitted to humans. 

No more guinea pigs, mice, and rats, as they can occasionally be the source for a variety of intestinal ailments including some bacterial infections (Salmonella and Campylobacter) and some intestinal parasites (Giardia or Cryptosporidium) These diseases can be spread to people by direct contact with the feces of an infected animal or by contact with soil that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected animal. 

See Zoonotic Diseases for comparative numbers

Overall Motor Vehicle Deaths and Rates Per 100,000 
See the following internet address: 

Skiing: During the past 13 years, about 32 people per year (on average) have died skiing or snowboarding, a fatality rate of 0.69 per million skier/snowboarder visits. 
Serious injuires (paraplegic, quadriplegic, serious head injury, comas, spinal injuries) occur at the rate of about 29 per year. In 1996/97, there were 45 serious injuries, 37 were male and 9 were snowboarders. The rate of serious injury for skiers/snowboarders was 0.86 per million.

The National Safety Council reports that in 1996 there were 716 recreational boating deaths, 800 bicycling deaths and 4,500 drownings. To compare the numbers (based on the number of deaths per 1 million participants): 
Skiing/Riding: 0.69 deaths/million participants 
Bicycling: 7.1 deaths/million participants 
Swimming: 17.0 deaths/million participants
On average, about 42,000 Americans die annually in automobile accidents, 22,000 are murdered, 13,000 fall to their deaths (including 300 in their bathtubs), and 6,500 die from food poisoning.


And "they" say non-human primates are TOO dangerous for private individuals to possess?


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