There are reports of zoonotic disease transmission from pet hamsters, rabbits, and rodents to humans (CDC, 2001, 2005a, 2005b). Since companion animals are often transported in unfiltered containers and are transported along with research animals (particularly during air transport), the potential for cross contamination during transport must also be considered.
In general, contact between animals and people during transportation should be restricted to prevent exposure to or transfer of zoonoses. When possible, human contact should be limited to trained animal handlers who are knowledgeable of good sanitation practices, biosafety and biocontainment, and precautions for protection against zoonoses.
The transportation of nonhuman primates requires special consideration because the risk of zoonotic disease transmission is greater with non-human primates than any other species of research animal due to the close phylogenetic relationship between humans and nonhuman primates (NRC, 2003b). Macaques imported for research have been implicated in the transmission of B virus and Ebola virus to laboratory workers, both potentially fatal diseases in humans (Cohen et al., 2002; Palmer, 1987). B virus (also known as Herpesvirus simiae) is of particular concern as it is endemic in some populations of macaques and infected animals are generally asymptomatic. B virus and Ebola virus can be transmitted through aerosols, animal bites, scratches, contact with body fluids or tissue material, or equipment that has been contaminated with body fluids (NRC, 2003b).
Due to the risks associated with zoonotic diseases transmitted from nonhuman primates, a common standard for personal protective equipment (PPE) has been established for workers who come into contact with nonhuman primates or equipment that has been exposed to nonhuman primates (NRC, 2003b). This standard recommends that dedicated clothing, gloves, and masks be utilized when in contact with nonhuman primates and that eye and face protection be mandatory for individuals who come into contact with macaques. Eye and face protection are also highly recommended for individuals who come into contact with other Old World monkeys.
Ensuring public safety and maintaining public confidence in the shipping process should be concerns of both regulatory agencies and carriers. Public confidence is difficult to maintain when airline passengers observe transportation workers wearing PPE boarding their plane. However, the development and use of overshippers (a closed, environmentally controlled container into which a standard primary enclosure would be