Arizona Republic Wins National Headliner Award for Monkey Farm Series

An Arizona Republic investigation into an outbreak of valley fever at the largest pig-tailed macaque breeding facility in the United States has won the 2022 National Headliner Award for Health, Medicine, and scientific writing.

Republic staff also achieved third place in the civil service in the newspaper category. The contest winners were announced on Wednesday.

valley fever: Illness and death at a Mesa-area monkey farm threaten the viability of the primate center

Written by investigative journalist Rob O’Dell, the four articles in the winning series revealed that more than 47 monkeys died and hundreds more were infected after the flu-like illness swept through the monkey colony de Mesa, which is led by the University of Washington.

The infections not only raised questions about why the university decided to set up a center for the monkeys – which thrive in tropical rainforests – in the middle of an arid desert, they also created uncertainty about the viability of tens of millions of dollars of animal-based research. tainted with disease.

“It’s not just that (Valley fever) is killing some of their animals, it’s affecting the research they’re doing with them,” Lisa Shubitz, a veterinarian and research scientist at the Valley Fever Center for Health, told The Republic. Excellence from the University of Arizona. Last year. “It affects their ability to do this immunology research because you are limited in your ability to wipe out or suppress that animal’s immune system. You risk having your experience ruined by bringing this disease back.

The Mesa facility is home to more than 360 pig-tailed macaques, like those seen in Germany.

During his reporting, O’Dell also learned that the water supply at the breeding center in Arizona is tainted with a chemical called rocket fuel perchlorate from an adjacent missile manufacturer and that the recommendations to install a new water filtration system in 2016 were ignored.

Contaminated water: Chemical runoff from missile maker contaminates water supply at Arizona monkey colony

Moreover, the long-term financial situation of the primate center has long been in disarray. Staff turnover has been high. Key researchers left and leadership positions remained open until late last summer.

The primate center has clashed with state and local regulators. He was cited in May 2021 for failing to alert Washington state regulators that macaques imported into the state had valley fever. He has also been cited by federal regulators for conduct detrimental to animal welfare. At least five monkeys have died since 2017 due to poor care or monitoring.

The judges, who selected this year’s winners in the health, medicine and science category, called O’Dell’s reporting “a terrific and thorough work on a health topic that is not so obvious.”

The Republic was also recognized in the Public Service category for its fight for public records and access and for its ongoing coverage of the 2020 Arizona election review, including the “Democracy in Doubt” series. “.