Woman Not Sick After Exposure To PA Lab Monkeys In Crash

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PENNSYLVANIA — A woman who was among the first on the scene at the Pennsylvania crash site involving more than 100 monkeys is reportedly not sick, despite media reports that connected her "exposure" to the scene with illness.

Michele Fallon, a resident of Danville, told the Daily Item that she had been vaccinated with rabies shots and antibiotics simply as a precaution. "I was exposed to monkeys and exposed to people with COVID. It was the worst day of my life," she reportedly said.

The cynomolgus monkeys from Mauritius, who were traveling from New York to a Missouri-based laboratory, were in a tractor trailer on Route 54 in Montour County when it collided with a dump truck. Crates carrying the monkeys, who had just arrived from Mauritius, spilled onto the roadway, and three monkeys escaped. All three were later captured and had to be euthanized.

Conspiracy theories proliferated online the wake of the crash, and Fallon's social media post describing her encounter — she was driving behind the tractor trailer before the crash and one of the monkeys hissed in her face — was swiftly misinterpreted. Her medical visits were simply a precaution, she reportedly said.

However, experts note the exposure of the public to animals that had not been quarantined presents very legitimate risks.

The crash raised concerns from PETA over the dangers to both human and animal welfare posed by transporting monkeys in this manner as well as laboratory monkey experiments at large.

"U.S. experimenters are playing with fire and the rest of us may get burned," primate scientist and PETA Science Advisor Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel said. "They had not been quarantined, their health had not been assessed, and no one knows what pathogens they harbor."

She cited past examples of monkeys bringing new strains of Ebola to the United States.

"Importing monkeys and tormenting them in laboratories is likely to cause more human illness than experimenting on them will ever prevent," Jones-Engel added.

Authorities said that the tractor-trailer was headed to a CDC-approved quarantine facility at the time of the crash.

This article originally appeared on the Across Pennsylvania Patch