Friday, 19 January 2018

Don't Touch the Monkeys! Florida Macaques Carry Virus Lethal to Humans

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | January 11, 2018 01:42pm ET

Monkeys infected with the herpes B virus may be symptom-free, but in people the virus can be fatal.

Visitors to Florida's Silver Springs State Park should avoid monkeying around with the reserve's feral macaques; officials warn that the primates carry a strain of the herpes virus that can be fatal to humans.

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. Hundreds more of the macaques can be found wandering the areas adjacent to the park.

Now, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 25 percent of the monkeys carry macacine herpesvirus 1 (McHV-1), which causes only mild symptoms, if any, in monkeys but can be deadly in people. [10 Deadly Diseases That Hopped Across Species]

The scientists also discovered that as many as 14 percent of the monkeys shed DNA from the virus in their saliva, presenting a risk of virus transmission to humans, the researchers reported in a new study, which was published online in the February 2018 issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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