Florida monkeys are excreting an infectious disease fatal to humans

Henrietta Strickland
January 13, 2018

Macaques were introduced to Florida's Silver Springs State Park as a tourist attraction nearly 100 years ago. A study released Wednesday (10 January) claims that their body fluids, including saliva and faeces, contain a deadly virus that is unsafe to man, reports the AP.

Feral rhesus macaque monkeys at a Florida state park carry a herpes virus unsafe to humans.

The data reveals that a growing population of rhesus macaques in Silver Springs state park could be carrying herpes B in their saliva, as opposed to simply carrying the virus, which is common in the species.

Thomas Eason, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a statement that without the organization the specter of sustainable and extended enlargement of non-resident rhesus macaques in Florida can lead to consequential human health and safety probability involving human damage or transferal of disease.

To date, only 50 cases of herpes B have been documented in humans in the USA since the disease was first identified in 1932, and numerous infections resulted from animal scratches or bites, according to the CDC. Only 50 people have contracted it since 1932, according to the CDC, and there are no documented transmissions from wild macaques.

"The commission supports the removal of these monkeys from the environment to help reduce the threat they pose".

Monkeys living in Silver Springs made headlines past year, when they chased and hissed at a family visiting the popular public park. The monkeys have since been spotted in other areas outside the park, along the Ocklawaha River. In humans, herpes B causes a devastating brain disease that the CDC says is deadly about 70 percent of the time - especially without treatment. The monkeys also have roamed far outside the park: Dozens were photographed recently swarming a deer feeder outside a home in Ocala.

Wiley said the researchers are interested in seeing the virulency of the pathogens.

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. A rhesus monkey on the loose in Pinellas County for more than two years was caught in October 2012. That makes them a public health threat, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers concluded in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. To get the spit, they dipped cotton swabs in sugar water, and lobbed them at the monkeys.

While there are no official statistics on monkey attacks on humans in the park, a state-sponsored study in the 1990s found 31 monkey-human incidents, with 23 resulting in human injury between 1977 and 1984.

"We don't have any silver bullet; that's the nature of science", Wisely said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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