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14 January 2018, 02:37 | Opal Carroll
Wild monkeys inhabit the swamp along the Silver River in Ocala Florida. Michael Warren—Getty Images iStock
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.
Human instances if the virus has been unusual with around 50 registered around the globe and there have been no cases of the virus being spread to humans in from wild rhesus macaques in Florida or elsewhere.
Human visitors to the park are most likely to be exposed to the disease, and any contact with the monkeys' saliva, urine, or feces could lead to contraction. "This can be done in a variety of ways", Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson told the Associated Press. It is unknown how much of the virus is in the saliva and bodily fluids of the Florida monkeys, and if the virus can indeed be transferred to humans through contact.
"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. A study released Wednesday (10 January) claims that their body fluids, including saliva and faeces, contain a deadly virus that is unsafe to man, reports the AP.
As a outcome, the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission plans to rid the park of the roaming wild primates, which are native to South and Central Asia.
Monkeys have also been spotted in Apopka, Fruitland Park and even in Pasco County. On a chilly day in November, Capt. Tom O'Lenick, who has navigated the Silver River for 35 years, hollered from his charter boat into the dense surrounding forest.
Minutes later another troop was running along the opposite riverbank.
About 175 free-roaming rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) inhabit the park, descended from a population of around a dozen animals that were released in the 1930s to promote local tourism.
But there was human error in that plan.
Previous studies of the Silver Springs Park rhesus populations had identified herpes B in the animals, according to a study published in May 2016 by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).
"They didn't know monkeys could swim", O'Lenick said. They draw people to the state's parks and have become notorious for their interactions with humans.
Wildlife officials are now pushing for the removal of the monkeys roaming in Florida in the interest of public health and safety.
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