Story at a glance

  • The first case of Monkey B virus in China occurred in a veterinary surgeon in Beijing.
  • The man became ill after dissecting two monkeys in March.
  • He began experiencing nausea, vomiting and fever, as well as neurological issues, and died in May.

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

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later. 

He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, 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. 

Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus. 


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The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent. 

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 most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth. 

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


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Published on Jul 19, 2021