Wildlife managers in Florida say they want to remove roaming monkeys from the state in light of a new study published Wednesday that finds some of the animals are excreting a virus that can be dangerous to humans. Scientists studying a growing population of rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park say that rather than just carrying herpes B, which is common in the species, some of the monkeys have the virus in their saliva and other bodily fluids, posing a potential risk of spreading the disease. Human cases of the virus have been rare, with about 50 documented worldwide, and there have been no known transmissions of it to people from wild rhesus macaques in Florida, reports the AP. However, the researchers, who published their findings in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, say the issue has not been thoroughly studied.
The herpes B virus has been fatal to 21 of the 50 humans known to have contracted it from macaque bites and scratches while working with the animals in laboratories, according to the CDC. "When it does occur, it can result in severe brain damage or death if the patient is not treated immediately," a CDC rep says in a statement. The researchers estimate that up to 30% of the scores of Florida's feral macaques may be actively excreting the virus. While there are no official stats on monkey attacks on humans in the park, 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 what specific management tactics the state may employ, but a rep said the commission supports ridding the state of the invasive creatures.