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Witness at scene of CDC lab monkeys crash has developed symptoms

By: Caroline Machiraju

Danville, PA – Michele Fallon is living a nightmare. And, she’s ready to put that nightmare on record.

The Danville woman is now experiencing symptoms, believed to be related to her close encounter with wild monkeys, when the trailer they were riding in collided with a dump truck and unloaded their cages all over Route 54, close to I-80, on Friday afternoon. (The monkeys were destined for an unidentified Centers for Disease Control lab, in the Midwest.)

The following day, Fallon developed a cough and something that resembled “pink-eye.” And, by Sunday, she was visiting the Geisinger Medical Center emergency room, where infectious disease doctors were consulted. Fallon has since received her first (of 4) preventative rabies shots; as well as a prescription for a 14-day course of Valacyclovir.

The stay-at-home mom, who shared that she was fully vaccinated and received her booster, was also tested for Covid, but the results at the ER were negative.

Fallon is still processing the sequence of events that unfolded on Friday. She pulled over to check on the condition of the accident victims, but she said they were more concerned about press coverage of the incident.

The driver of the truck hauling the monkeys, identified in a press release from PA State Police, as Cody M. Brooks, 31, of Keystone Heights, FL even went so far as to put his hand in the camera of a local Press-Enterprise reporter. “He was very, very upset,” said Fallon. “He was in a panic.” Brooks passenger, Daniel G. Adkins, 59, of Florahome, FL required transport to Geisinger Medical Center for an injury.

Many questions remain unanswered for Fallon, like what are these monkeys possibly infected with? Why wasn’t the vehicle marked indicating it was carrying potentially bio-hazardous contents? Why were the three monkeys that fled instantly euthanized and not captured? What did the CDC tell her doctor to test for?

Nothing forewarned Fallon that she was putting her health at risk. It was only after her risky encounter, when a CDC representative who appeared on the scene, advised her to watch for symptoms and to alert her primary care doctor. She also said the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health would be in touch (see letters).

“This has been a nightmare,” she said. “I had no idea doing a good deed like this could get me a rabies shot and put me in this situation.”

Fallon was simply showing compassion; she told the trailer driver that he’s “in Danville, we take care of people.” Now, she’s the one needing care.

Fallon said there were other motorists who stopped at the scene. Fallon could not identify those people but suspected some might also have been put at risk. The email from PA DOH indicated that efforts would be made to track them down with the assistance of police.

Those who believe they may have had contact with the monkeys are asked, per the CDC letter, to seek medical attention and contact PA DOH at (717) 787-3350.

The three monkeys who fled from the scene were euthanized. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has since issued a statement on this incident, indicating that the organization has filed a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture’s Director of Animal Welfare Operations, asking him to investigate the treatment of these monkeys. They report that the “USDA has now confirmed that it’s investigating.”