The unnamed 53-year-old veterinarian from Beijing died on May 27, just a few months after he dissected two dead monkeys as part of his experimental primate research job in March. After dissecting the monkeys, the man reportedly experienced symptoms of the monkey B virus, including vomiting and fever, and eventually died in hospital.
The man is the first recorded case of a human becoming infected by the virus and has sparked concern, with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) warning that the monkey B virus could potentially harm others who work with primates.
“Zoonotic BV infections have mainly involved primate veterinarians, animal care personnel, or laboratory researchers in North America. However, there were no fatal or even clinically evident BV infections in China before 2021,” the CCDC Weekly journal declared earlier this month.
Noting that the monkey B virus “might pose a potential zoonotic threat to the occupational workers,” the report argued that “it is necessary to eliminate BV during the development of specific pathogen-free rhesus colonies and to strengthen surveillance in laboratory macaques and occupational workers in China.”
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though it is “extremely rare” for humans to be infected with the virus, it can cause “severe brain damage or death if you do not get treatment immediately.”
“People typically get infected with B virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque monkey, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose, or mouth,” the CDC explained, adding that just “one case has been documented of an infected person spreading B virus to another person.”
Symptoms of the virus can include nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, fatigue, muscle pains, and blistering, and they often don’t present themselves until up to a month after infection.
News of the first human monkey B virus case in China is concerning to many as the world continues to tackle the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and continues to take lives across the globe.
Due to a heightened interest in public health during the coronavirus pandemic, several cases of rare or largely unknown diseases have caused alarm in recent months, including the news that a Texas resident returning from Nigeria had been hospitalized with monkeypox, which has a 1% chance of being fatal. The CDC, however, reassured Americans that there was nothing to worry about.