Florida monkeys are excreting an infectious disease fatal to humans

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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 risky to humans.

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.

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. However, the researchers say the issue has not been thoroughly studied.

"When it occurs, it can bring about serious mind harm or demise if the patient isn't dealt with quickly", a CDC rep says in an announcement.

A public relations representative for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission could not give comment about the state's plan at the time of this printing. The population boomed to more than 1,000 and state officials worked to capture the animals as they were deemed a public health hazard. Unsurprisingly, the Florida monkeys are a popular wildlife attraction, though many who see them may not be aware of the risks of close contact.

The CDC said there is always concern about the threat that diseases like herpes B virus pose to people, especially in settings where there is frequent interaction between animals and humans where scratches or bites can occur.

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The researchers estimate that up to 30 percent of the scores of Florida's feral macaques may be actively excreting the virus. But members of the group "supports the removal of these monkeys from the environment to help reduce the threat they pose", they told the Associated Press.

Monkeys have also been spotted in Apopka, Fruitland Park and even in Pasco County. Blood tests showed the monkey carried herpes B. However, a woman who had been bitten by the monkey tested negative for the virus. It is unknown how much of the virus is in the saliva and bodily fluids of the Florida monkeys, and if the virus can indeed be transferred to humans through contact.

Macaques were introduced to the Sunshine State's Silver Springs State Park as a tourist attraction nearly 100 years ago.

About 175 free-roaming rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) inhabit the park, descended from a population of around a dozen animals that were released in the 1930s to promote local tourism.

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

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