The Case of Three Missing Hamsters

“Three infected hamsters reported missing from their cage in the animal containment facility on the ninth floor of the Laboratory of Epidemiology and Public Health became overnight celebrities—of a sort. ‘Infected Yale Hamsters Escape’ was headline news for the wire services, major television and radio networks and newspapers across the nation, including the New York Times, which devoted almost half a page to the story.

“The hamsters have not been found, and are presumed dead. Although their disappearance caused considerable stir in the media and concern in the University, the three rodents and others like them in the LEPH-9 facility are of little threat to human health and the likelihood that they escaped from the facility is practically nil. …

“The hamsters were among several hundred research animals in a major study of Alzheimer’s disease … [they were] infected with Creutzfeld-Jakob virus, a so-called ‘slow virus,’ which is invariably fatal, and causes symptoms of senility similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease. …

“A series of meetings has since been held to ascertain facts of the escape, and to plan remedial actions.”