Wildlife officials in the state of Florida have warned the public to take precautionary measures after a tribe of Rhesus monkeys infected with Herpes B virus were found loose and roaming around the state.
A species not native to Florida, the Rhesus monkeys were brought in the 1930s to Silver River State Park, an island off the coast of Florida, thanks to the movie "Tarzan" which popularised them. Wildlife officials theorised the monkeys taught themselves to swim that's why they were able to reach the mainland of Florida.
The initial three pairs of monkeys that were brought in 83 years ago have ballooned to more than 1,000. Over the years, wildlife officials have caught over 700 monkeys and all tested positive for the Herpes B virus, which is not uncommon in the species. However, although not harmful to the primates, the virus can be deadly for humans.
Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warned people and tourists to keep their distance from the Rhesus monkeys, which are known to act aggressively towards people.
Infection with the Herpes B virus is extremely rare in humans. But once it does occur, the infection can lead to "severe neurologic impairment or fatal encephalomyelitis."
It can lead to hyperesthesias, ataxia, diplopia, agitation, ascending flaccid paralysis and worst, death.
A person will contract the Herpes B virus is s/he gets scratched or bitten by the infected monkey, or come in contact with its bodily fluids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Persons at greatest risk for the Herpes B virus infection are veterinarians, laboratory workers, and others who have close contact with Old World macaques or monkey cell cultures.
Human infection can also result from indirect contact via, for example, a needlestick injury from a contaminated needle.
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