Hong Kong issues health alert after man, 37, catches deadly ‘herpes virus B’ from infected MONKEY and fights for his life in hospital

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • The man caught the virus after being attacked by a monkey in a country park
  • He was rushed to the ER and is now in a ‘critical condition’
  • READ MORE: Inside NIH virus lab in Montana – that has eerie ties to Wuhan

Hong Kong has issued a health alert after a man caught a rare and deadly virus from a monkey bite.

The man, 37, reportedly caught the virus after being attacked during his visit to Kam Shan Country Park, also known as monkey hill, in late February.

The man was rushed to the ER due to fever and reduced consciousness level. He is now in the intensive care unit and is in a ‘critical’ condition.

This is the first human infection of monkey virus B, also known as herpes simiae virus, recorded in Hong Kong, but cases have been reported previously in the US, Canada, mainland China and Japan.

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection has warned the general public to avoid touching or feeding wild monkeys to lower the risk of catching the virus.

The man reportedly caught the virus after being attacked by a monkey during his visit to Kam Shan Country Park, also known as monkey hill, in late February (stock image)

People can get infected if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque monkey (stock image), have contact with the monkey's eyes, nose, or mouth

People can get infected if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque monkey (stock image), have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose, or mouth

The man had otherwise been in good health, according to a statement published on the Hong Kong government’s website, and was admitted to the hospital on March 21.

On Wednesday, fluid from his spine tested positive for B virus.

According to the CDC, the virus is extremely rare, but can lead to severe brain damage or death if it is not treated rapidly.

Herpes B virus kills around 70 percent of sufferers if they are not diagnosed and treated promptly. 

People can get infected if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque monkey, have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose, or mouth. 

Macaque monkeys are commonly infected by the virus but do not show symptoms. 

Symptoms in people begin as typical flu-like symptoms, including fever and chills, muscle ache, fatigue and headache. Other signs can include nausea and shortness of breath.

People can develop small blisters in the wound or area that has been in contact with the monkey.

Symptoms usually start within a month of being exposed to an infected monkey, but they could appear as quickly as three days.

There has only been one case of an infected person spreading B virus to another person.

Herpes B virus is naturally found in the saliva, urine and stool of macaques, which are frequently found in Hong Kong, according to the CDC.

There is currently no vaccine for herpes B. 

The virus belongs to the herpes family. There are more than 100 known herpesviruses, but eight routinely infect only humans.

Since the virus was discovered in 1932, there have been 50 documented human cases. Roughly two thirds of occurred in the US. Of the 50 cases, 21 were fatal.

The virus can be treated with anti-viral medications. Sometimes antiretroviral therapy is used, depending on the condition of the macaque monkey, how well and how rapidly the wound was cleaned and the nature of the wound.

WHAT IS HERPES B?

Herpes B virus kills around 70 percent of sufferers unless they are treated immediately.

It is spread via macaque monkeys.

Macaques that are housed in primate facilities usually become infected by adulthood but often have no symptoms.

Infection in humans is extremely rare.

Since the virus was discovered in 1932, there have been 50 documented human cases, of which 21 were fatal.

Most of these infections resulted from animal bites or scratches, or from contaminated materials, such as a needle, entering broken skin. 

However, a scientist died in 1997 after being splashed in the eye with an infected animal’s bodily fluid. 

Vets and lab workers are most at risk.

The herpes B virus can survive for hours on objects, particularly if they are moist. 

Disease onset usually occurs within a  month of virus exposure but can be as little as three days. 

Symptoms include:

  • Blisters at the site of exposure
  • Pain, numbness or itching at the site
  • Flu-like aches and pains
  • Fever and chills
  • Headaches that last more than a day
  • Fatigue
  • Poor co-ordination
  • Shortness of breath

If the virus is not treated immediately and therefore enters the central nervous system, most patients die even with treatment.

The most common cause of death is respiratory failure with paralysis, which starts in the lower limbs and moves up.

The few who survive often have lasting brain damage. 

If a person suspects they may be infected, preventative anti-viral therapy may be required up to five times a day for two weeks.

Treatment depends on whether the central nervous system is thought to be affected but usually involves anti-viral drugs given intravenously twice-a-day. 

There is no vaccine for herpes B.

Those who work with macaque monkeys should wear proper protective clothing, including gloves and a face shield.

The animals should also be handled humanely to reduce the risk of bites and scratches.  

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention 

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