The population of rhesus macaques in Florida with the potentially deadly strain of herpes is expected to double, according to experts. The risk of humans contracting the virus is supposedly low, but increasing populations may also increase contact risks.
Rhesus Macaque Population
According to experts, the population of rhesus macaques roaming Silver Springs State Park in Florida is expected to double in the coming years. From the current 200 population, the population might increase to 400 by 2022.
Evidently, the rhesus macaques in the state were first introduced in the 1930s to increase tourism and were initially just confined to an island in the park, but their population increased in the past 80 years. Even more problematic is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 report in which they found that 25 percent of the population carries macacine herpesvirus 1 (McHV-1), a disease that may be fatal to humans.
Furthermore, the report states that while there have been no deaths linked to McHV-1 exposure from the macaques, investigations in humans are still lacking.
Because of the report, Florida authorities made it illegal to feed the macaques, but more efforts are said to be needed to control the now invasive species’ population.
Rhesus Macaques And McHV-1
Rhesus macaques have such a high reproductive capacity that after about 12 rhesus macaques were introduced to Florida in the 1930s, their population blew up to 400 by the 1980s and they spread to adjacent forests.
McHV-1 was first detected in the population in 1992, and from 1984 to 2012 about 1,000 macaques were removed by private trappers. However, this controversial process was halted and there were no other population control practices set in place.
“The potential for human-macaque contact in this park is high,” the CDC report states, noting that while there is so far no evidence of human transmission as of December 2017, the pathogen must be considered a “low-incidence, high-consequence” risk that must be addressed.