Monkeys in Florida Threatening to Spread Fatal Virus

Florida Silver Springs Silver Springs Florida wild Florida

As such, "this pathogen should be considered a low-incidence, high-consequence risk, and adequate public health measures should be taken", the researchers write in the paper. They were first introduced to Silver Springs State Park in the mid-1930s, when they were intentionally released into the park to attract tourists.

Roaming monkeys in Florida are being removed by the state's wildlife managers because of the growing fear that they are excreting a virus that can be unsafe to humans.

Visitors to Florida's Silver Springs State Park should avoid monkeying around with the reserve's feral macaques; officials warn that the primates carry a strain of the herpes virus that can be fatal to humans.

"Without management action, the presence and continued expansion of non-native rhesus macaques in Florida can result in serious human health and safety risks including human injury and transmission of disease", said Thomas Eason, from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The study, published Wednesday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal "Emerging Infectious Diseases", found that some rhesus macaques can shed the herpes B virus orally and transmit it to humans.

Since McHV-1 was identified in 1932, researchers have only documented 50 cases of human infections, all from captive macaques. However, the members of the band support removing these reptiles out of the surroundings to lower the hazard they present, told the Associated Press.

Rhesus Macaques Rhesus Macaque Rhesus monkeys monkeys

But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission urges people that come in contact with them to keep a safe distance.

Monkeys living in Silver Springs made headlines previous year, when they chased and hissed at a family visiting the popular public park. They have been spotted in trees in the Sarasota and Tallahassee areas. (That happened at least 23 times near Silver Springs State Park between 1977 and 1984.) The wild monkeys also poop everywhere, Wisely says, so there could be plenty of chances for exposure that way.

"Herpes B virus infection is extremely rare in people, but when it does occur, it can result in severe brain damage or death if the patient is not treated immediately", CDC spokesman Ian Branam said in a statement. Humans feeding the monkeys is a common activity along the Silver River. A rhesus monkey on the loose in Pinellas County for more than two years was caught in October 2012.

The weird thing is that the reported cases of herpes B are mainly in lab workers or veterinarians who caught the virus from a bite or exposure to infected bodily fluids at work.

"They didn't know monkeys could swim", O'Lenick said. The paper recommends that Florida wildlife managers consider the virus in future policy decisions.

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