Wildlife officials are now pushing for the removal of the monkeys roaming in Florida in the interest of public health and safety.
Florida Monkeys Carry Potentially Fatal Herpes Strain
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. Instead, the monkeys also carry the virus in the saliva and other bodily fluids, which may spread the disease to humans.
As many as 30 percent of the feral monkeys that are living in Florida are said to be infected with the dangerous herpes strain. Human cases of herpes B are actually rare, with no recorded transmissions from wild rhesus macaques to people.
The issue has actually not yet been fully studied. 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.
However, researchers do not want to take the risk of ignoring what may be a public health concern.
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 disease results in severe brain damage or death if not treated immediately, and of the 50 infections, 21 proved to be fatal.
Florida Monkeys May Be Removed Soon
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. There are about 175 of the monkeys in the Silver Springs State Park, but the population has spread elsewhere in Florida.
The findings of the study, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have pushed wildlife officials to take necessary action.
Removing the monkeys in Florida, however, may prove to be difficult due to how widespread the population has become. At this point, population control may be more realistic than eradicating the monkeys.
While Florida's officials determine their course of action, people in Florida are advised to steer clear from the monkeys when they see them to completely avoid the chance of being infected with the herpes B virus.