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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke January 31, 2022

No evidence to support claim that CDC staged monkey crash

If Your Time is short

  • There’s no evidence to support the claim that the CDC staged a crash involving lab monkeys as cover to release a bioweapon. A woman who was reported ill after encountering the animals was exposed to COVID, and told a local reporter that she wasn’t sick from the crash. 

Several lab monkeys escaped and were later recovered after a truck crashed on a Pennsylvania highway on Jan. 21.

They were en route to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sanctioned quarantine facility in Florida after arriving in New York from the island nation of Mauritius that morning, prompting some speculation that the incident was staged to hide something nefarious. 

"Did the CDC stage the ‘escaping monkeys’ as a cover story for releasing the next bioweapon?" one blog post asked. 

It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Certainly, it’s not every day a truck towing a trailer of 100 cynomolgus monkeys, or long-tailed macaques, collides with a dump truck on the highway. In this case, three escaped and were later found and euthanized. But there’s no credible evidence to support the claim that the CDC staged this event as cover for releasing a bioweapon, or "a new virus strain," as the blog post goes on to suggest. 

The post focuses in part on Michele Fallon, who came into contact with the monkeys after the crash. 

"Woman who came in contact with ‘escaping monkeys’ gets quarantined, comes down with pink eye and a cough," the post says.

News reports did say that Fallon later developed a cough, runny nose, and something like pink eye, but she later clarified to the Daily Item, a Pennsylvania newspaper, that she wasn’t sick from her monkey exposure. 

She attended a party the night of the accident and later discovered that she had been exposed to COVID-19, the paper said. 

"I want people to know I am not sick regardless of what they are reading that has been put out there in the media," she said.

Cynomolgus monkeys are often used for medical studies, and the New York Times reported that they were in such high demand for coronavirus vaccine research at the start of the pandemic that some scientists discussed needing to create a monkey reserve, or emergency stockpile. It’s not clear whether these monkeys were part of that effort.

 Claims that the CDC staged this crash to release a bioweapon are unfounded, and we rate it False. 


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No evidence to support claim that CDC staged monkey crash

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