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Lab Monkey Crash Witness Now Attributes Symptoms to COVID Exposure

Published: January 29, 2022
Michelle Fallon, a PA woman who claims to have witnessed the crash of a truck carrying 100 lab monkeys destined for a CDC quarantine site, says she's not sick but actually contact traced to a COVID positive at a previous birthday party.
File photo taken on May 23, 2020, shows laboratory monkeys in a lab breeding center. Michelle Fallon, a PA woman who claims to have developed pink eye after wading through the feces of 100 overturned macaques on their way to a CDC quarantine site, now says she is fine and was exposed to COVID at a birthday party later that day. (Image: MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP via Getty Images)

The woman who claimed to have developed symptoms resembling pink eye after a close encounter with lab apes at a Pennsylvania crash site says she is now fine, but fears having COVID. 

Initially, 45-year-old Danville resident Michelle Fallon wrote on her Facebook in a post that has since been marked private, “I spoke with the police and a woman from the CDC I am [sic] getting a letter and I’m very low risk for I don’t know what yet. But my symptoms are covid symptoms. Like seriously. A day from hell!”

But later, she backpedaled on that remark.

“I want people to know I am not sick regardless of what they are reading that has been put out there in the media,” on Tuesday told the Daily Item on Jan. 26.

“I found out I was at a birthday party Friday night and people there had COVID-19,” she told the outlet. “I was exposed to the monkeys and exposed to people with COVID. It was the worst day of my life.”

Recalling the accident

Fallon recalled how she witnessed the accident while driving her car directly behind a pickup truck that was towing a trailer carrying some 100 monkeys during the afternoon of Jan. 21.

According to PETA, the apes, a type of cynomolgus macaques, were intended to be used as guinea pigs and reportedly had just arrived that morning at JFK Airport in New York. 

The animal rights organization says the monkeys were imported from Mauritius and were on their way on state Route 54 at the intersection with Interstate 80 near Danville, Pennsylvania, to an undisclosed CDC-approved quarantine facility.

“I was behind the truck that was in the accident and I saw when the truck veered off the road and saw the incident,” Fallon related describing the crash where the pickup was hit by a dump truck and four monkeys reportedly broke away. 

When Fallon pulled aside to offer help, she saw several boxes thrown from the trailer scattered on the pavement. Some boxes were shattered.

Even though only four primates ran away, “Feces and urine from the terrified monkeys were reportedly smeared across the highway,” because imported animals for experimentation are often locked in their cages for the duration of their transport and left unclean, according to PETA.

Taking precautions

“I was close to the monkeys, I touched the crates, I walked through their feces so I was very close. So I called to inquire, you know, was I safe?” Fallon said according to PA Homepage.

“I walked to look and I saw what looked like crates with a green cloth over them,” 

Fallon additionally claimed to have at first thought the crates were housing cats.

“When I picked up the cloth a monkey popped up and hissed at me…I said, ‘oh, my God it’s a monkey’ and I backed away.” 

PETA reported that Fallon got squirted by “an eyeful of monkey saliva that has caused a reaction,” but that claim remains unsubstantiated. By the next day, however, Fallon contended to have developed a cough and pink eye.

Fallon stayed on the scene and reportedly spoke to medics and troopers, “I explained what happened and they said I was at very low risk of anything but I went to get checked out anyway because I started to not feel well,” she said.

“I only spoke to a few media outlets but I have been talking to PETA,” Fallon added.

Fallon said she was on prescription medications issued by the CDC and state health officials for rabies and antivirals.

“Because the monkey did hiss at me and there were feces around, and I did have an open cut, they just want to be precautious,” said Fallon.

Of the four renegade macaques, one was still on the loose by Saturday afternoon but by Saturday night all four were “accounted for’ and ‘euthanized,” PA State Police said.