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Florida monkeys could pass killer herpes to people

13 January 2018

A new study by University of Florida researchers is giving state wildlife officials a reason to consider removing the roaming monkeys of Silver Springs State Park in Marion County. The report about the same also consists that there is a need to remove these monkey from the reach of people, which can be a hard task to do. The virus can be spread to humans by monkey bites and scratches, as well as infectious fluids/feces getting splashed into the eyes (which happened once). The monkeys also have roamed far outside the park: Dozens were photographed recently swarming a deer feeder outside a home in Ocala.

Now nearly 30 percent of these reptiles drifting the park are excreting the herpes B virus during saliva and other body fluids.

"Herpes B virus infection is extremely rare in people, but when it does occur, it can result in severe brain damage or death if the patient is not treated immediately", CDC spokesman Ian Branam said in a statement. "To be honest with you, we found feces on children's slides, and in the playground", she says. Still, he said, while the research confirms the presence of the virus in the monkeys' bodily secretions, more work needs to be done to establish how much virus there is, and how easily transferable it is.

Removing the monkeys in Florida, however, may prove to be hard due to how widespread the population has become. If the researchers only analyzed the adults, infections became much more common: 75 percent of the older monkeys they tested carried the virus. To get the spit, they dipped cotton swabs in sugar water, and lobbed them at the monkeys.

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Wisely and colleagues say the threat of transmission in Florida is real. Since the researchers couldn't always track a spitball back to the monkey who made it, the exact numbers are a little vague. From the saliva swabs, about four to 14 percent of the infected were actively shedding the virus during the stressful fall mating season of 2015.

People in Florida are advised to stay away from the monkeys living in the state due to the risk of being infected with a possibly fatal strain of herpes.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission did not expand on what particular administration strategies the state may utilize, however a rep said the commission underpins freeing the condition of the obtrusive animals. In the meantime, Wisely says, if you are tempted to feed, snuggle, or attempt a selfie with the wildlife, just don't.

Florida monkeys could pass killer herpes to people