Science

Florida Monkeys Roaming State May Have Deadly Viral Infection

Do not touch the monkey! How often have you been told that in your life? It seems that Florida monkeys have a deadly virus that they could transmit to humans through touch. They seem to be immune to it, but humans could die from a particularly virulent strain of Herpes they carry.

Florida Monkeys
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

Deadly Infection Potential

A new study found that at least a quarter of the Florida monkeys have a strain of the Herpes B virus. The study also reports that the, rhesus macaques, particularly in the Silver Springs State Park, not only carry the virus but also have it present in saliva and other bodily fluids. This makes it even more dangerous for people to interact with these specific Florida monkeys.

While there are presently no known cases of herpes B being transmitted to humans from the Florida monkeys, that may change with further study. Worldwide, about 50 cases have been reported with 21 fatalities. That’s a 42% mortality rate. The virus is more deadly than that with an overall 70% mortality rate. However, patients can be treated and have a good chance of surviving. But if untreated, the herpes B virus can cause extreme brain damage and death.

Florida Monkey Attacks are not Well Studied

There was a Florida state study back in the 1990s that dealt with the number of monkey attacks on humans but it has not been ongoing. That report found that in the six years between 1977 and 1984, there were 31 Florida monkey incidents with humans and 23 of them results in a human injury. There was no mention of any herpes B virus transmissions in those incidents though.

New Statistics

The new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that 4-14 percent of the monkeys studied had the herpes B virus in their spit during the fall breeding season. However, the Florida monkey feces studied has no signs of the virus.

Florida Monkey History

The monkeys that roam freely across Florida are not native to the region. They have, over decades, made their way there from south and east Asia. They were brought to the park intentionally by humans who thought they may draw in tourists. What started as a colony of just a dozen rhesus macaques has, after rampant breeding, turned into a massive colony of over a thousand. This led the state of Florida to begin trapping them and moving them to other locations. That initiative brought the colony size down to a more manageable 175 in 2015.

Macaques are pesky invaders as they will eat anything they can including crops, and bird chicks and eggs. They also foul waterways in the area. While the herpes B virus is found often in macaques, it generally has little effect on them. Once a monkey has the virus it sticks around and may cause a cold sore, or mouth or eye irritation. It can then be transmitted via saliva, urine or feces.

So the next time you’re out hiking in Florida, stay away from monkeys. Definitely don’t swap spit with them, or get hit by flying poo, not that you would want to anyway.