When we think of dangerous pets, we imagine pet lions, alligators or boa constrictors. But a pet prairie dog can be just as dangerous. A giant Gambian rat, imported to a pet store from Africa, infected prairie dogs for sale in the same store with Monkey Pox, a smallpox-like disease found only in Africa. People who handled the prairie dogs got the disease, which eventually infected 30 people. “This is a virus that we simply don’t have a lot of information about,” says Dr. Steve Ostroff of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monkey Pox was first seen in African monkeys in 1958. Scientists have begun to realize that most of the diseases that humans get originally came from animals. A Scottish study reported that 61% of human infectious diseases originated with animals, as do 75% of all the “emerging diseases? that have appeared recently. And most of them come from Africa.

AIDS began in Africa and came from chimpanzees. West Nile came from birds and may have originated with African bats. SARS came from civets in China. Even measles may have originally been transmitted from animals 5,000 years ago. “Remember, we’re not the dominant life form on Earth,” says Dr. Daniel Shapiro. “Bacteria and other infectious agents are, really.”

Want a pet? Stick to a dog or cat.

There are dangerous critters lurking everywhere.

To read more about Monkey Pox,click here.

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