China reports first human death from rare Monkey B virus

Man in China dies of rare ‘monkey B’ virus

China reported the country’s first human infection and death caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Mokey B virus.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinarian working at a research institute specializing in non-human primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and fell ill about a month later.

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological problems and died in May.

Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.

The researchers said that a doctor and a nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.

The Mokey B virus is prevalent among monkeys and monkeys, but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, only 50 cases have been reported, most of them in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, but with a mortality rate of about 80%.

Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are at greatest risk, as people typically become infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected monkey, or if they come into contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose, or mouth.

But the virus is unlikely to mutate that poses a problem for the general population. Only one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.


What is Monkey B virus?

The virus, initially isolated in 1932, is an alphaherpesvirus enzootic in macaques of the genus Macaca. B virus is the only identified old-world-monkey herpesvirus that displays severe pathogenicity in humans.

How is it transmitted?

The infection can be transmitted via direct contact and exchange of bodily secretions of monkeys and has a fatality rate of 70 per cent to 80 per cent.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Macaque monkeys commonly have this virus, and it can be found in their saliva, feces (poop), urine (pee), or brain or spinal cord tissue. The virus may also be found in cells coming from an infected monkey in a lab. B virus can survive for hours on surfaces, particularly when moist.

When can a human get infected with B virus?

Humans can get infected if they are bitten or scratched by an infected monkey; get an infected monkey’s tissue or fluid on broken skin or in eyes, nose, or mouth; scratch or cut oneself on a contaminated cage or other sharp-edged surface or get exposed to the brain (especially), spinal cord, or skull of an infected monkey.

Is there a vaccine against B virus?

No. Currently, there are no vaccines that can protect against B virus infection.

Who are at higher risk for infection?

The virus might pose a potential threat to laboratory workers, veterinarians, and others who may be exposed to monkeys or their specimens.

Are there any cases of human-to-human transmission?

Till date, only one case has been documented of an infected person spreading B virus to another person.