23:57 GMT03 December 2020
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    A new study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases has said that at least 25 percent of feral rhesus macaque monkeys in sunny Florida's Silver Springs State Park carry the deadly herpes B virus.

    Of that percentage, researchers found that approximately four to 14 percent of the primates released the virus in their spit and other bodily fluids during the fall breeding season. And though the virus only causes mild symptoms such as cold sores, mouth ulcers and eye irritation in monkeys, it can be lethal to humans.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), herpes B manifests as a brain and spinal cord inflammation in humans. Symptoms in humans can include fever, headache, and skin lesions at the site of exposure. In observed cases, death can occur between one and three weeks after the onset of symptons.

    As a consequence, the Sunshine State's Fish and Wildlife Commission now plans to rid the park of the roaming primates, which were introduced to the Florida park in the 1930s in an effort to promote tourism.

    But Samantha Wisely, one of the authors of the study, says there's still much more to learn about the issue.

    "The headlines have already taken off about this, but there's really a lot we still don't know about herpes B in wild monkeys," the wildlife biologist told The Verge. "There's really a low risk of you getting it, but if you get it, there are going to be very high consequences." The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids.

    According to the CDC, out of a total of 50 cases reported in humans since 1932, 21 have been fatal.

    Wisely says at least 23 of the known human infections happened to people who were lab workers or veterinarians that caught the virus from a bite or exposure to infected bodily fluids while at work, suggesting the risk of contamination to the public is very low.

    "When it does occur, it can result in severe brain damage or death if the patient is not treated immediately," the CDC noted, adding, "this pathogen should be considered a low-incidence, high-consequence risk, and adequate public health measures should be taken."

    Though the conservation commission hasn't announced their eviction plans, members of the group told AP that "this can be done in a variety of ways."

    "[The group] supports the removal of these monkeys from the environment to help reduce the threat they pose," the statement added.

    While the organization hashes out a plan, Wisely told the outlet people should steer clear of touching the primates.

    "It doesn't do the wildlife any good and it doesn't do you any good," she told The Verge.

    According to Ars Technica, the population of the region's macaque monkeys is estimated to be more than 800.


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    Herpes B Virus, macaque, Florida
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