Herpes Infected Monkeys Florida

September 17, 2013 by  

Herpes Infected Monkeys Florida, Wildlife officials believe that the herpes-infected monkeys descend from three pairs of Rhesus monkeys brought to Florida in the 1930s by a tour operator named Colonel Tooey. To capitalize on the success of Tarzan movies, Tooey opened a Silver River State Park jungle cruise near Ocala, Fla. Tooey featured a monkey island as part of the cruise, but oh wait, monkeys can swim, and swim many of them did, right off the island.

More than 1,000 Rhesus monkeys, which are native to Africa and Asia, live in Florida today, with some of them making their way as far as Jacksonville — 100 miles away. In the past 10 years, wildlife officials have caught 1,000 monkeys, with about 700 of them testing positive for herpes B.

Herpes B is common in macaque monkeys. Monkeys infected with herpes B show mild signs of infection or no signs at all, but if transmitted to humans, the disease can cause neurological impairment or brain and spinal cord inflammations, leading to death in about 70 percent of cases. Transmission can occur from bites or scratches, cuts from a contaminated surface, needlesticks from contaminated syringes and exposure to infected nervous tissue, especially brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite sensational headlines about herpes-infected monkeys “terrorizing” or “ravaging” Florida, it is exceedingly rare for the disease to infect humans. Since the discovery of herpes B in 1932, there have only been 31 documented cases in humans, says the CDC. Herpes or no herpes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warns that Rhesus monkeys “can be aggressive to humans and pose potentially serious hazards,” so Floridians should definitely steer clear of any Rhesus monkeys they see hanging out in the Publix parking lot.

But people are still desperate to see the monkeys, because people love monkeys. Tom O’Lenick, a tour operator in Silver River State Park, said the herpes-ridden creatures are the main attraction.

“Everybody who comes on the river for a tour wants to see the monkeys,” said O’Lenick.

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