Sunday, December 11, 2016

Herpes Monkeys in Florida

Somewhere in Florida, there is an island. A monkey island, if you will. Or maybe herpes island is a better name?

Rhesus macaque - "I tested positive for what?"
There are over 130 documented types of herpes virus and they infect a wide range of animal species including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mollusks. 

In some cases these infections are relatively harmless. The "cold-sore" lesions humans get are a result of herpes virus infection. However, sometimes herpes infections can be very problematic; in the case of elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHV) which can cause a fatal hemorrhagic disease in elephants or oyster herpes virus (OsHV-1) which leads to high mortality rates in shellfish farms.

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There is however a herpes virus strain, found in monkeys, that can be fatal to humans. B virus or monkey B virus, which causes minor disease in macaques (thought to be the natural hose) can cause very serious disease in humans.

So why are there macaques in Florida you might ask? You could probably guess. Someone brought them in as a novelty and they flourished. Without any natural predators (we hunted and killed most of them) they spread. However, recently with the increase in large snakes (another invasive species) maybe they will start feeding on the monkeys and limit the population.

Stories like this are pretty fascinating and seem weird, however I think it highlights the One Health concept and how zoonosis is such a curious, and important idea in public health.

  • I have a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology, and I am currently a Principal Scientist.
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