On July 16, China reported the first Monkey B Virus death in its history. The individual, identified as a veterinarian in Beijing, was infected by monkeys in March and passed away on May 27.
Monkey B virus (BV), also known as Herpes B virus, has a fatality rate of 70 to 80 percent, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s English journal the “China CDC Weekly” cited in its July 17 report. The report said that the deceased’s close contacts were tested in April and were free of the virus.
According to the U.S. CDC, humans typically get infected with BV when bitten or scratched by an infected macaque monkey, or have contact with a macaque’s eyes, nose, or mouth. The CDC highlighted that there has only been one case of BV human-to-human transmission documented in history.
It’s unclear which type of monkey the victim was in contact with when he contracted the virus.
First Death in China
The deceased veterinary was 53 years old. He worked for a non-human primate breeding and experimental institution in Beijing.
On March 4 and 6, the veterinarian dissected two dead monkeys. One month after the dissections, the veterinarian “experienced nausea and vomiting followed by fever with neurological symptoms,” according to the report.
Because doctors in Beijing didn’t have any experience with BV infections, the veterinarian was asked to visit several hospitals for treatment, but was not diagnosed until April 17 when doctors collected his cerebrospinal fluid and that of his two co-workers to test for monkey-related viruses.
The results showed that the veterinarian was infected with BV.
A group of scientists from China CDC and Capital Medical University concluded in their report: “This implied that BV in monkeys might pose a potential zoonotic threat to the occupational workers.”
Medical workers deliver a patient to the fever clinic at a hospital in Beijing, China, on Jan. 13, 2021. (GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)
According to the U.S. CDC, BV infections start with flu-like symptoms, which include fever and chills, muscle aches, fatigue, and headaches. The symptoms typically start within one month after exposure to a BV infected monkey.
The first human infection was identified in 1932, and since then, only 50 cases of transmission to humans have been reported. Of those, most had come into contact with a monkey, and 21 died.