In a recent report, China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported the country’s first human case of the rare Monkey B virus.
The 53-year-old veterinary surgeon worked at a lab in Beijing China, conducting experiments on non-human primates. According to the report, he had dissected two monkeys in early March and a month later began to feel ill. He experienced fever, nausea, vomiting, and neurological symptoms. Over the course of his infection, he visited multiple hospitals and underwent several laboratory tests. In April, researchers conducted genome sequencing of his cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sample and discovered the presence of the Monkey B virus.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), this is the first human infection with the Monkey B virus in China. Unfortunately, despite several bouts of treatment, the man died later in May. Researchers also tested two of his close contacts: a doctor, and a nurse. However, both tested negative for the virus.
The Monkey B virus is genetically similar to the human herpes simplex 1 (HSV1); therefore, capable of infecting nerve cells. It typically infects macaque monkeys and causes cold sore-like lesions in them. However, in humans, the infection is much more severe and results in encephalitis.
A Potential Threat?
Since its discovery in 1932, the virus has caused 50 human cases across the world. Humans are infected after exposure to bodily fluids, or getting scratched, bitten by monkeys. Once, a researcher also became infected after a tiny drop of bodily fluid entered her eyes. Although human infections are rare, they are extremely fatal and have a fatality rate of 80%.
Luckily, there is only one reported case of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
Researchers believe that the virus poses the biggest threat to veterinarians and animal handlers. Therefore, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the use of proper protective equipment when working with macaque monkeys. Moreover, in case of contact, one should scrub the wound or area with iodine or soap for 15 minutes. Afterwards, run water over the area for a further 15 to 20 minutes.
Wang, Wenling, et al. “First Human Infection Case of Monkey B Virus Identified in China, 2021.” China CDC Weekly, vol. 3, no. 29, 2021, pp. 632–633., doi:10.46234/ccdcw2021.154.