Florida Monkeys May Infect Humans With Possibly Fatal Herpes Virus

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Blood samples from 317 macaques revealed that 84 monkeys carried the virus and that the odds of a monkey being infected increased with age.

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.

Scientists researching a blooming population of rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park say that rather than being the carrier of Herpes B which a customary feature in the species, some of the monkeys contain the virus in their saliva and other body fluids which can pose a threat to the humans.

McHV-1, which is also known as herpes B or monkey B virus, is carried by several species of macaque monkeys, which are thought to be a "natural host" for the virus, according to the CDC.

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.

State wildlife officials reiterated that they have their prime concern over this issue.

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As a effect, the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to rid the park of the roaming wild primates, which are native to South and Central Asia.

The presence of the virus in the monkeys' feces and saliva presents issues for park workers and visitors, who could be endangered if bitten or scratched. "This can be done in a variety of ways", Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson told the Associated Press.

Although there have been no documented cases of macaque-to-human transmission of the herpes B virus, we still do not know enough about the potential risks.

The virus is rare in humans. The disease results in severe brain damage or death if not treated immediately, and of the 50 infections, 21 proved to be fatal. A rhesus monkey on the loose in Pinellas County for more than two years was caught in October 2012.

But there was human error in that plan.

The manager of the park's glass-bottom boat operation released the monkeys to an island in the Silver River, not knowing the monkeys can swim. Now there are believed to be about 175 in Silver Springs State Park. While there are no official statistics on monkeys attacking humans in the park, a state-sponsored study conducted in the 1990s found that there were at least 31 incidents reported resulting in human injury between 1977 and 1984. The virus could pose a serious threat to public health and safety, the CDC said.

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