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An individual who helped after a truck carrying 100 lab monkeys crashed in Pennsylvania fears she has caught a virus after one of the macaques hissed in her face, causing her to develop pink eye symptoms.
Michelle Fallon, who lives in Danville near Scranton, was directly behind the vehicle when it crashed, causing animal crates to scatter across the highway and some to smash apart.
There were three macaques who escaped and fled, but all were captured and humanely euthanized. The other monkeys – who were on their way to a lab from Mauritius when the other arrived – have all been accounted for.
Having had a rabies shot, Fallon has written about the symptoms she has since suffered on Facebook – and also revealed to reporters that she has also been suffering from pink eye.
‘I was close to the monkeys, I touched the crates, I walked through their feces so I was very close. So I called (a helpline) to inquire, you know, was I safe?
‘Because the monkey did hiss at me and there were feces around, and I did have an open cut, they just want to be precautious.’
When Fallon saw the animals in their cages, she initially thought they were cats and got out to help both the driver and the animals. She claims the monkey hissed at her when she approached the cage and put her hand on it.
The day after the accident, Fallon developed a cough and pink eye that became so serious that she was taken to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for treatment.
She was given the first of four rabies injections, along with some anti-viral drugs, by doctors who specialize in infectious diseases.
On Facebook, she stated that she was checking for signs of rabies or monkey herpesvirus B.
‘What a day! I tried to help out at an accident and was told there were cats in the crates. So I went over to pet them only to find out it’s monkeys. Then I noticed that there was three in each, with some completely broken, so I knew four had got away,’ Fallon posted on Facebook.
‘I came home to go to bed and my aunt ran into a news crew and she found out not to get too close to the monkey. Well, I tried to pet one. I touched the crates and walked in poop. I was told meet the police at the scene to talk about exposure.’
‘I spoke with the police and a woman from the CDC I am getting a letter and I’m very low risk for I don’t know what yet. But my symptoms are covid symptoms. Like seriously. A day from hell!’
As a result of being so close to them, Fallon will need to keep an eye on her health for the next month to check if she develops any infectious diseases.
When the truck crashed into the garbage truck, the monkeys were on their way to a laboratory in Florida.
Following the wreck, Fallon spoke with the pickup’s driver and a passenger.
In Fallon’s view, the driver appeared disoriented, and the passenger was worried that his legs might be injured.
After exiting I-80 at the Danville exit, the pickup veered across the other lane in an attempt to get back on.
According to reporters, Fallon peeked into the crate and saw a small monkey staring back at her.
‘They’re monkeys,’ she said to the other driver.
Jamie Labar, who was working the front desk of a Super 8 nearby when she heard of the accident, initially thought it was a joke.
By Saturday, all the escaped monkeys were found after the Pennsylvania Game Commission and other agencies began a search amid frigid weather.
The three escaped lab monkeys were euthanized after being caught.
One of the macaques was found in a tree, and three shots were heard, according to WNEP. Cynomolgus macaques are also known as crab-eating or long-tailed macaques.
As a result of the crash near an Interstate 80 exit in Danville, Pennsylvania, state police had warned people not to look for or capture the cynomolgus macaque monkey.
‘Anyone who sees or locates the monkey is asked not to approach, attempt to catch, or come in contact with the monkey. Please call 911 immediately,’ state troopers posted on Twitter.
According to trooper Lauren Lesher, the concern was ‘due to it not being a domesticated animal and them being in an unknown territory. It is hard to say how they would react to a human approaching them.’
After arriving at Kennedy Airport in New York on Friday morning from Mauritius, the shipment was en route to a CDC-approved quarantine facility.
The road was littered with crates Friday as troopers searched for the monkeys with rifles in hand.
Thermal imaging was used by Valley Township firefighters to locate the animals, which assisted in the recovery effort.
State police received ‘technical assistance’ from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At the time of the accident, the truck was heading to a lab.
No information was provided about the location and type of research that the cynomolgus monkeys were destined for, but these animals are often used in medical research.