They were first introduced to Silver Springs State Park in the mid-1930s, when they were intentionally released into the park to attract tourists.
Samantha Wisely, a researcher at the University of Florida had been studying this non-native group of monkeys since 2015. A study released Wednesday (10 January) claims that their body fluids, including saliva and faeces, contain a deadly virus that is risky to man, reports the AP.
Feral rhesus macaque monkeys in a Florida state park carry a herpes simplex virus which may be harmful to humans, as per a different study. That makes them a public health threat, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers concluded in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Thomas Eason, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a statement that without the organization the specter of sustainable and extended enlargement of non-resident rhesus macaques in Florida can lead to consequential human health and safety probability involving human damage or transferal of disease. Human cases of herpes B are actually rare, with no recorded transmissions from wild rhesus macaques to people. "This can be done in a variety of ways", spokeswoman Carli Segelson said in an email.
She says even though the rhesus macaque monkeys can look friendly and be playful at times, they can be deadly from just one simple bite or scratch. The report about the same also consists that there is a need to remove these monkey from the reach of people, which can be a hard task to do. The monkeys have since been spotted in other areas outside the park, along the Ocklawaha River.
"When it occurs, it can bring about serious mind harm or demise if the patient isn't dealt with quickly", a CDC rep says in an announcement.
Wiley said the researchers are interested in seeing the virulency of the pathogens.
"Human visitors to the park are most likely to be exposed ... through contact with saliva from macaque bites and scratches or from contact with virus shed through urine and feces", the paper's authors wrote. Humans feeding the monkeys is a common activity along the Silver River. Because it is present in bodily fluids, the monkeys have the potential to spread the disease more easily than usual.
While there are no official statistics on monkey attacks on humans in the park, a state-sponsored study in the 1990s found 31 monkey-human incidents, with 23 resulting in human injury between 1977 and 1984. The paper recommends that Florida wildlife managers consider the virus in future policy decisions.