Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Monkeys in Florida Threatening to Spread Fatal Virus

Wild monkeys inhabit the swamp along the Silver River in Ocala Florida Wild monkeys inhabit the swamp along the Silver River in Ocala Florida. Michael Warren—Getty Images iStock
Patty Aguilar | 13 January, 2018, 14:05

A study published on Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal fromthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prompted researchers from the universities of Florida and Washington to warn Florida's wildlife agency that certain monkeys could be considered a public health concern.

The rhesus macaque is native to Asia, but were brought to Florida in the 1930s in an attempt to boost tourism during the height of the popularity of Tarzan movies.

Florida is anxious about monkeys.

Researchers contemplating a developing populace of rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park say that instead of simply conveying herpes B, which is regular in the species, a portion of the monkeys have the infection in their spit and other organic liquids, representing a potential danger of spreading the illness.

Feral rhesus macaque monkeys at a Florida state park carry a herpes virus that could be unsafe, possibly deadly, to humans, according to a new study.

Human instances of the infection have been uncommon, with around 50 archived around the world, and there have been no known transmissions of it to individuals from wild rhesus macaques in Florida, reports the AP. The monkeys have since been spotted in other areas outside the park, along the Ocklawaha River. The monkeys also have roamed far outside the park: Dozens were photographed recently swarming a deer feeder outside a home in Ocala.

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Of the 50 cases of herpes B in humans documented worldwide, the people were infected by bites and scratches from monkeys in captivity that were carrying the disease.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission didn't go into details on plans.

"When it does occur, it can result in severe brain damage or death if the patient is not treated immediately", said a spokesperson for the CDC.

"It is interesting to see oral shedding at all", Civitello said in an email after reviewing the paper. There are about 175 of the monkeys in the Silver Springs State Park, but the population has spread elsewhere in Florida. Humans feeding the monkeys is a common activity along the Silver River.

The monkey population is growing steadily and one UF researcher says it's better to be safe than sorry. They draw people to the state's parks and have become notorious for their interactions with humans. The virus could pose a serious threat to public health and safety, the CDC said. Blood tests showed the monkey carried herpes B. However, a woman who had been bitten by the monkey tested negative for the virus. The paper recommends that Florida wildlife managers consider the virus in future policy decisions.

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