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Veterinarian dies of rare Monkey B virus, the first documented human case in China

Monkey B virus (Chris huh/WikiCommons)

A 53-year-old veterinary surgeon in Beijing died after contracting the Monkey B virus, according to a report published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report states that the victim, who was the first documented human case in China, worked in an experimental research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding. He dissected two dead monkeys in March then experienced nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological symptoms one month later.

The patient visited several hospitals but died on May 27. Health officials from the CCDC took cerebrospinal fluid from the patient in April and found evidence of the Monkey B virus.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the B virus infection is extremely rare but can lead to severe brain damage or death if it is not treated immediately. People can get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque monkey, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms can start one month after being exposed to the virus but could also appear in as little as three to seven days, the CDC says.

Suresh K. Mittal, a professor of virology at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, said that since the virus was identified in 1932, there have been 50 documented cases, and 21 of those people have died.

Mittal said there are concerns in the U.S. about the spread of the monkey virus, particularly in the Silver Springs State Park in Florida, where the population of herpes-carrying rhesus macaques is growing on the banks of the Silver River near Ocala.

“The monkeys do carry some percentage of the herpes B virus, so there should be concern over there that if those monkey come in contact with human,” Mittal said.

Although the virus is more of a concern for veterinarians or animal handlers, Mittal said, the general public should also take precautionary steps to avoid catching the virus, which include staying away from wildlife and making sure not to touch sensitive areas of the face where saliva from monkeys can easily spread.

“When we are traveling abroad, we know that monkey populations can be very high in places such as Southeast Asia,” Mittal said. “We have to make sure we are not in direct confrontation with them.”

According to the CDC, if exposed to a macaque monkey, a person first should thoroughly wash and scrub the area on their body that was in contact with the monkey with soap, detergent or iodine for 15 minutes. They should run water over the area for 15 to 20 more minutes and seek immediate medical attention.

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