Man who broke into monkey enclosure for coins may have potentially fatal herpes

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A man who broke into a monkey enclosure to steal coins could have contracted a "potentially fatal" herpes virus.

The intruder is being urged to receive medical attention by authorities in Tasmania after he entered the enclosure, which houses macaque monkeys, on Tuesday night (August 9).

Having damaged the electric fence, the man went on to pocket the money he had targeted from a surrounding moat.

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The city of Launceston council have warned him that his theft could incur a higher cost with his life at risk from the herpes B virus that most macaques carry.

A council spokesperson said: "The virus can be asymptomatically shed by the monkeys through bodily fluids and ‘fomites’ – that is, any material that has come into contact with the virus, which includes the water in the enclosure. The virus is potentially fatal to humans, with more than 30 known deaths recorded worldwide, with only one confirmed case of human-to-human transmission."

Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten added that the intruder must now look out for tell-tale symptoms of the virus, which include blisters, pain and numbness.

Sufferers can also experience flu-like symptoms.

The virus does not place monkeys' lives in danger, with a condition similar to cold sores in humans the most common symptom among the animals.

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A break-in at the enclosure has never been reported before and Van Zetten reasoned: "You can never stop some people from trying to break in if they really want to, but we will continue to monitor and see if there’s anything we can do that would make sure that people don’t do this."

Both the Tasmanian Department of Health and the police have been informed of the break-in with the mayor also appealing to the public for any information about the crime, before adding that it is of greater importance that the intruder is identified so they can receive medical attention as soon as possible.

The enclosure was established as part of a sister-city relationship with Ikeda in Japan, where the monkeys came from.

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