STERLING, Va. – Detaining prohibited agriculture and animal products can be a prickly subject for travelers, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists stuck to their mission and seized 100 porcupine quills that may pose an animal and human virus threat.
CBP officers at Washington Dulles International Airport referred a U.S. citizen, who arrived on a flight from Africa on April 21, to a secondary examination after the traveler declared possessing an animal horn. An agriculture examination also discovered an ivory bottle opener and the 100 porcupine quills. On April 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised CBP to seize the quills as a potential vector for the monkeypox virus.
The United States last experienced a monkeypox virus outbreak in 2003. According to the CDC, 47 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox were reported from six states—Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Investigators determined that a shipment of animals from Ghana, imported to Texas on April 9, 2003, introduced monkeypox virus.
Following that monkeypox virus outbreak, the CDC prohibited the importation of all African rodents into the United States, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale, distribution, transport, or release into the environment of prairie dogs and six specific genera of African rodents within the United States
CBP released the traveler and turned the quills over to the CDC.
“Travelers should be aware that those seemingly safe animal souvenirs they purchase overseas may accidentally introduce animal diseases that could devastate our livestock industries, sicken our citizens, and impact our nation’s economy,” said Keith Fleming, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s Baltimore Field Office. “Customs and Border Protection remains on our nation’s frontline as protectors of our agricultural resources, and we will continue to work with our partners to intercept all potential threats at our nation’s ports of entry.”
CBP agriculture specialists are charged with the challenging task of safeguarding our nation’s agricultural resources by examining international trade shipments and traveler baggage every day for invasive insects, federal noxious weeds, and plant and animal diseases. They have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection.
During a typical day last year, CBP agriculture specialists across the nation seized 3,091 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 250 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry. Learn more about what CBP accomplished during “A Typical Day” in 2020.