Non-native rhesus macaques in Florida‘s Silver Springs State Park have tested positive for herpes B, a potentially fatal disease that is spread through bodily fluids and may be transmissible to humans. According to a recent study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, about 30 percent of the monkeys tested carried the herpes B virus. In response to this public health threat, Florida state wildlife managers are proposing the removal of the macaques from their adopted habitats.

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Although there have been no documented cases of macaque-to-human transmission of the herpes B virus, we still do not know enough about the potential risks. Policymakers are taking the threat seriously. “Without management action, the presence and continued expansion of non-native rhesus macaques in Florida can result in serious human health and safety risks including human injury and transmission of disease,” said Thomas Eason, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to the Guardian. Although state officials have not specified exactly how the monkeys would be removed, they have indicated a willingness to fully remove the invasive macaques, creatures native to Asia which have settled in Ocala, Sarasota, and Tallahassee.

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Of the 50 humans that have known to have contracted the herpes B virus, 21 have died. The high-fatality rate makes extreme precaution necessary. Unsurprisingly, the Florida monkeys are a popular wildlife attraction, though many who see them may not be aware of the risks of close contact. “Human visitors to the park are most likely to be exposed,” wrote the study’s authors, “through contact with saliva from macaque bites and scratches or from contact with virus shed through urine and feces.” While scientists work to uncover whether the virus is transmissible to humans, policymakers are making plans to control the invasive species. In the meantime, it’s probably best to keep your distance from Florida macaques.

Via The Guardian

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