Don't Touch the Monkeys! Florida Macaques Carry Virus Lethal to Humans

Don't Touch the Monkeys! Florida Macaques Carry Virus Lethal to Humans

Scientists who have been studying the increasing rhesus macaque population in the Silver Springs State Park claimed that the monkeys do not just carry herpes B, a common trait among the species. Being a result, the nation's Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to rid the playground of this roaming wild primates, that might be indigenous to South and Central Asia. They were first introduced to Silver Springs State Park in the mid-1930s, when they were intentionally released into the park to attract tourists.

Up to 30 percent of the wild monkeys living in the park may be shedding the virus through poop, fluids and other excrements.

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.

Nonetheless, it's rather rare and possibly lethal in people.

Of the 50 humans that have known to have contracted the herpes B virus, 21 have died.

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. "This can be completed in many different ways". Their contacts with the public, including last summer when the monkeys chased a family, have made them somewhat notorious critters and have caused two partial park closures since 2016.

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.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Department of Environmental Protection now prohibit guests from feeding the monkeys. Biologist David Civitello of Emory University told the AP that more research needs to be conducted, particularly to find out how much of the virus is present in the monkeys' excrement. The monkeys also have roamed far outside the park: Dozens were photographed recently swarming a deer feeder outside a home in Ocala. A rhesus monkey on the loose in Pinellas County for more than two years was caught in October 2012.

Local folklore holds that the the interest stemmed from the movie Tarzan, but that origin story has not been verified and no rhesus macaques appear in that film. Blood tests showed the monkey carried herpes B. However, a woman who had been bitten by the monkey tested negative for the virus.

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