He was a veterinarian and was 53 years old. He died in Beijing, China at the end of May 2021 after dissecting two monkeys, reveals the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Chinese.
The cause of death is a rare virus, the “Monkey B virus”, or herpes B virus of the monkey. This is the first case of transmission to humans in this country.
A virus identified in 1932
But where does this virus come from and does it represent a danger to human health? First thing to know: the monkey herpes B virus, or Herpesvirus simiae, is not a new virus, since scientists first identified it in 1932.
And although it has the same name, it is different from the human herpes virus.
It affects monkeys, mainly macaques in Asia, but can be transmitted to humans in the event of bites, scratches, stings with contaminated material or through the eye, if a contaminated hand is brought to the eyes for example.
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A rare but often fatal disease
These cases of transmission from monkeys to humans are very rare: less than 40 since 1932, according to the National Research and Security Institute (INRS). But when they do occur, they are fatal 80% of the time if left untreated.
If the general population is at low risk of contamination, professionals who work in contact with monkeys are much more so: veterinarians, but also anyone working in research laboratories, rendering services or zoos.
Fever, pain, paralysis …
The first symptoms appear two days to six weeks after infection and include fever, whether or not associated with vesicles on the skin, pain, tingling or even paralysis, because the virus attacks the nervous system of its host.
To date, only one case of human-to-human transmission has been observed, according to the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
The Chinese vet who died in May had tested positive in April a month after the dissections. Two of his close contacts, a doctor and a nurse, have tested negative.