BLOODY, raw, smoked or dried, untold thousands of pounds of monkey parts, giant African cane rats and other illegal ''bush meat'' slips into the United States each year.
For some of Washington's African residents, the meat is a taste of home, a treat for the holidays and reunions.
''It's a delicacy, for special occasions,'' said Sambourou Diop, a Gabonese national living in the region, who sampled bush meat in his West African homeland but has not eaten it in the US.
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For America's disease detectives, though, bloody bags of wild meat could mean trouble.
They're so worried about exotic viruses causing a deadly outbreak or, in the worst case, an AIDS-like pandemic, that after a two-year pilot study the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have launched an expanded effort to test confiscated bush meat for potentially dangerous viruses...
Beginning in 2008, Ms Smith, a wildlife health expert, aided the Centres for Disease Control on a pilot project to test bush meat confiscated at Dulles International Airport near Washington, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and airports in Houston and Atlanta.
The effort netted heads, arms and other pieces of two chimpanzees (members of an endangered species), seven monkeys and 35 rodents, mostly giant cane rats. It is illegal to bring any of those animals into the US.
Also found were three exotic viruses, although they do not appear dangerous to humans. Two of the viruses are in the same broad family as the viruses that cause herpes in humans. The third virus, simian foamy virus, was found in seven monkeys and one of the chimpanzees. That virus has been on the centre's radar for a few years because, like HIV, it is a retrovirus. It insinuates itself into the host's DNA, where it persists, perhaps for a lifetime.