Wild Rhesus Macaques in Florida: Since Monkey Bites Can Kill, Time for Invasive Species to Go

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Wildlife managers in Florida are hoping to remove roaming monkeys, known as rhesus macaques, after a new study published Wednesday January 10, 2018 concluded that some of the non-native monkeys are excreting the herpes B that is dangerous to humans. Usually the monkeys simply carry the virus, but scientists studying a growing population of rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park discovered that some of the monkeys have the herpes B virus in their saliva and other bodily fluids, posing a potential risk of spreading the disease. Silver Springs State Park is located in Silver Springs, Florida — northeast of Ocala, about 60 miles northwest of Orlando.

The herpes B virus (Macacine herpesvirus 1) is similar to the human herpes virus HSV1 and HSV2, that cause cold sores and genital herpes, respectively. Herpes B virus in the monkeys is similar to the HSV1 and HSV2 infections in humans, but when humans are infected with B virus — namely by a monkey bite or scratch — humans can suffer severe central nervous system disease that causes permanent neurological damage and dysfunction or death.

Severity of the disease increases for untreated patients, with a case fatality rate of approximately 80%. On record, 21 of the 50 humans known to who have contracted the virus “zoonotically” have died from macaque bites and scratches while working with the monkeys in laboratories, according to the CDC.

Early diagnosis of Herpes B infection, and immediate treatment are crucial to human survival of the Herpes B infection.

Researchers estimate that up to 30% of the scores of Florida’s feral macaques may be actively excreting the virus. There are no official stats on monkey attacks on humans in the park, but a state-sponsored study in the 1990s found 31 monkey-human incidents, with 23 resulting in human injury between 1977 and 1984.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission did not elaborate on how they plan to eliminate the state of rhesus macaques, but the action is support by the commission. Rhesus macaques are a non-native species that was introduced to Florida in 1930 when the monkeys escaped from a tourist attraction. They are located in Marion County and Seminole Counties.

Worldwide, various species of macaques are considered the most widespread primate genus after humans — ranging from Japan to the Indian subcontinent, North Africa and Southern Europe.

Several species of macaque are used extensively in animal testing, especially in the neuroscience of visual perception and the visual system.

See also …
Samantha M. Wisely to Author , Katherine A. Sayler, C. Jane Anderson, Carisa L. Boyce, Amy R. Klegarth, and Steve A. Johnson Macacine Herpesvirus 1 Antibody Prevalence and DNA Shedding among Invasive Rhesus Macaques, Silver Springs State Park, Florida, USA

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