Animal rights group rallies behind monkey Zika claims

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Animal rights activists took to the streets of downtown Fort Myers in protest of an outbreak that health officials have discounted as highly unlikely.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says the Zika virus is nothing to monkey around about and that an epidemic spread by primates in Hendry County could be imminent.

The Florida Department of Health says some monkeys do carry the virus but that the mammals likely will not spread Zika to humans.

“Non-human primates are not likely to be involved in the virus transmission in the United States,” the department said in a statement in March.

There are a total of 158 cases of the Zika virus in Florida. In all the cases, people contracted the disease through international travel.

“To date, no local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in United States, including Florida,” the department of health said.

Despite what health experts say, people in Southwest Florida should be on high alert, activists say. They are pinning the possibility of an outbreak on monkey-breeding facilities. The group has gone as far as to purchase billboard ads and fliers that read “The Zika threat on our doorstep.”

The World Health Organization has declared Zika an international health crisis. However, the international agency has not pointed to monkeys as cause for concern.

But monkeys are natural hosts to the Zika virus, and according to PETA, this poises Hendry County and it’s so-called monkey farms to become “ground zero” to a domestic Zika virus outbreak.

Their claims hold no water with experts. The Department of Health does not manage nor have jurisdiction over the Hendry County monkey facility.


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