China Reports First Death From Rare Monkey B Virus


A veterinarian in China has died of an extremely rare disease that is passed from primates to humans, according to a report by the Washington Post. It is China's first recorded fatality from the Monkey B virus.

The Monkey B virus is endemic to macaque monkeys, but when the virus passes from the monkeys to humans, the disease becomes highly pathogenic and often leads to death.

The victim worked in a research laboratory that focuses on primate breeding. In March 2021, he dissected two dead monkeys, and died a month later after experiencing bouts of vomiting, nausea, and fever. Doctors took samples of his blood and saliva and detected the presence of Monkey B virus.

When the Monkey B virus infects a human, it attacks the central nervous system, causing brain inflammation and loss of consciousness, among other symptoms. According to a 2007 paper published by the Cambridge University Press, Monkey B infections in humans result in an extremely high mortality rate of approximately 80 percent.

There does not seem to be any evidence of the Monkey B virus naturally passing from human to human. However, there was one case of human-to-human transmission involving a shared tube of medication. This resulted in contamination at a broken skin site where the cream was used to treat another patient’s bite wound, according to the 2007 study. 

Most infections in humans are associated with contamination of exposed skin tissue with virus from a macaque or cells or tissues harvested from this animal.

In 1997, celebrated biologist Elizabeth Griffin died of Monkey B virus six weeks after a monkey had flung a fluid into her face, hitting her eye, according to the Washington Post


Since 1932, fewer than 100 people have been infected with Monkey B virus, which causes a disease called herpes B. Most victims are veterinarians, scientists, and researchers who handle monkeys.

The first case of Monkey B virus in humans involved a man who was bitten by a monkey. Although he recovered from the bite, he developed symptoms that affected his central nervous system and died 15 days later.

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