Michele Fallon was driving behind a truck when it hit a dump truck, sending both off the road and tearing open a side of the truck's trailer. Crates and debris spilled out onto the road and around the crash site. After checking to see if the driver was ok, she returned to the back of the trailer, where another individual said they saw a cat running into the woods, and theorised that the truck was carrying crates of cats.
Ms Fallon inspected a crate and pulled back a cloth covering one. She stuck her finger inside one of the cages and heard a grunting noise, quickly followed by a monkey leaping up to meet her gaze. It hissed, startling her.
She recalled walking around to check on the monkeys in an area that had been covered in faeces from the primates, and found one cage that had been completely destroyed, and another that was broken, but still contained primates. She told the driver about the crate, who then warned her that the monkeys had not been quarantined yet and that she shouldn't touch anything.
The monkeys were bound for a CDC quarantine facility, prompting members of the agency to travel to the scene and assist local law enforcement with containment.
Shortly after the ordeal, Ms Fallon began to feel ill and came down with a very bad case of pink eye. She checked herself into a hospital and was given antibiotics and rabies shots. News of her illness began to spread on social media, prompting some – including right wing conspiracy theorists – to wonder if she was victim zero of a new monkey-born plague.
According to Ms Fallon and the doctors treating her, nothing of the sort was afoot; she simply had Covid.
“I want people to know I am not sick, I found out I was at a birthday party Friday night and people there had COVID-19,” she told The Daily Item. “I was exposed to the monkeys and exposed to people with COVID. It was the worst day of my life.”
She said she initially was not worried about her exposure to the monkeys, but she later received a call from the CDC that made prompted her visit to the hospital.
“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.
A group of three monkeys did manage to escape their containment, but local police said the animals were tracked and recovered. The three that escaped were "humanely euthanised according to American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines," the Pennsylvania Department of Health said in a statement.
The animals were cynomolgus macaques, and are often used for medical testing.