China Reports First Human Death From Rare Monkey Virus

Veterinarian contracted Monkey B virus, or herpes B
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2021 8:37 AM CDT
China Reports First Human Death From Rare Monkey Virus
A rhesus macaque monkey grooms another in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

A veterinarian in China has become his nation's first fatality from a rare virus spread by monkeys. The 53-year-old man contracted the Monkey B virus after dissecting two dead monkeys in March and died in May, reports the Weather Channel. The man's close contacts have so far tested negative. The virus, also known as herpes B, has been around for a while, but it circulates almost exclusively in macaque monkeys. The CDC says the infection is "extremely rare" in humans, with fewer than 100 cases reported since it was first identified in the 1930s. Typically, those who catch it work closely with monkeys. Only one case has been documented of a person spreading the virus to another person, per the CDC.

Still, the case is generating more attention than it might because of the current pandemic. The coronavirus and the Monkey B virus are both “the consequence of species jumps,” Nikolaus Osterrieder of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences in Hong Kong tells the Washington Post. “But the important difference is that in the case from herpes B, it’s a dead end. It’s not jumping from one human to another human." It's possible that could change if the Monkey B virus mutates, but Osterrieder thinks it's unlikely. The Post also notes that health authorities in Florida last year expressed concern over a rising population of monkeys that carried the herpes B virus. (A Texas resident has been diagnosed with a rare case of monkeypox.)

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