As the world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, a new viral infection has claimed its first life in China. According to reports, a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon contracted the Monkey B virus in March this year and eventually succumbed to it in May.
According to PTI, “A Beijing-based veterinarian who was confirmed as China’s first human infection case with Monkey B virus (BV) has died, amid rising concerns.” The report — quoting Global Times and citing English Platform of Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention — further added that the vet “showed early-onset symptoms of nausea and vomiting, a month after he dissected two dead monkeys in early March”.
To understand more, we reached out to experts who explained its transmission pattern, symptoms, treatment and people who may be at risk of getting infected by it.
What is Monkey B virus?
“Monkey B virus is a very rare viral infection and is one of the groups of herpes virus. It is traditionally found in an ancient variety of monkeys like macaques, chimpanzees and capuchin,” Dr Charu Dutt Arora, consultant home care, Covid expert and medical services at Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, said.
Agreed Dr Bela Sharma, additional director, internal medicine at Fortis Memorial Research Institute who said that “it is not a common virus and is not very dangerous either.” She added that it is “a zoonotic virus that spreads mainly to animals and rarely infects humans”.
According to Dr Arora, since 1932, only around 60-80 cases of Monkey B virus have been reported in the world.
Experts said the virus essentially spreads through droplet infection when there is an exchange of bodily fluids, mainly saliva, urine, blood and certain brain fluids from the monkey. “No human-to-human transmission of the virus has been reported so far,” Dr Arora told indianexpress.com.
People at risk
People who are at risk are those who may get bit or scratched from monkeys, like veterinary doctors, plumbers, construction site workers, labourers and people who work in the jungles, said the experts.
“When the virus attaches itself to the brain and spinal cord, patients start experiencing neurological symptoms like difficulty in memory, muscle coordination, muscle movements and fogging of the brain. Sometimes, this leads to encephalitis or brain swelling that could be fatal,” the doctors said.
According to CDC, a person may start showing symptoms “within one month of being exposed to a monkey with B virus infection, but could appear in as little as three to seven days.”
Prevention and treatment
“Fluid therapy is the only treatment for Monkey B virus,” said Dr Arora who added that in case a person has had any contact with a monkey or has been bitten or scratched, they should continuously wash the area with soap, detergent or iodine for a minimum of 15 minutes. In case of severe symptoms, they must consult a doctor immediately.