A large group of Rhesus monkeys from a small island near Silver River are now posing a health threat to Floridians, wildlife experts say.
The monkeys–which were first brought to the area by tour guide Colonel Tooey in the 1930’s–have had a population boom over the years and eventually learned to swim, and now hundreds of them are infected with Herpes B and are moving towards Jacksonville. Officials say the virus is rarely transmitted to humans, but it is possible, and it can be deadly.
The virus is caused by Macacine herpesvirus 1, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The virus is commonly found among macaque monkeys, including rhesus macaques, pig-tailed macaques, and cynomolgus monkeys (also called crab-eating or long-tailed macaques), any of which can harbor latent B virus infection and appear to be natural hosts for the virus. Monkeys infected with B virus usually have no or only mild symptoms. In addition, rabbits, guinea pigs, and mice can be experimentally infected with B virus. Infection with B virus is extremely rare in humans; however, when it does occur, the infection can result in severe neurologic impairment or fatal encephalomyelitis if the patient was not treated soon after exposure.
Local residents are being urged not to approach the animals, no matter how friendly they may seem.
“Just like any other wild animal you need to give them space,” said British wildlife photographer Graham McGeorge.
Image: Wikimedia Commons