Woman recovers after falling ill following visit to Tulane Primate Research Center

Woman recovers after falling ill following visit to Tulane Primate Research Center

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - St. Tammany officials reported Wednesday that the investigator with the United States Department of Agriculture, whose blood test showed possible current or prior exposure to a foreign bacteria, was released from a hospital Sunday. According to St. Tammany Parish government spokesman Ronnie Simpson, she is no longer sick. Simpson also said that the woman's travel history does include a visit to a region that may have provided an opportunity for exposure.

"Federal and state agencies are aggressively trying to determine if the illness was related to the facility visit or past travel," said Simpson.

The investigator had recently visited the Tulane Primate Research Center in Covington, where the bacteria sickened also two monkeys. One of the two had to be euthanized.

Officials said last week, that the disease found in the monkeys is Burkholderia Psuedomallei. It was being researched at the facility, but the Director of the Center says he is unsure how the monkey's contracted it. The sickened investigator, who lives out of state, was sent to the facility to observe Tulane's practices and protocols.

A blood test showed that the researcher had antibodies in her blood. The bacteria causes something commonly known as Whitmore's Disease. Officials are unsure of if she contracted the disease while at the facility or if her recent travel history played a role.

Officials do say that the risk to the public is low and they are taking every precaution to make sure that employees at the facility don't get sick.

"They've done a lot to make sure their people are being monitored and are being looked at," State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said. "They're not sick, there are no other animals that we're aware are sick. We do not believe this has gone off the grounds."

Antibiotics can be used to treat Whitmore's Disease. More tests are being conducted on the sick researcher to determine when she contracted the disease.

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