Monkey B Virus (BV)

As the world grapples with the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, another viral infection has been reported in China. The Monkey B Virus (BV) claimed its first victim in the country after a veterinary surgeon contacted the virus while dissecting two dead monkeys in early March, 2021.

What is Monkey B virus?

  • The virus, initially isolated in 1932, is an alphaherpesvirus enzootic in macaques of the genus Macaca. The Monkey BV is caused by macaques, a genus of Old World monkeys that serve as the natural host. B virus is also commonly referred to as herpes B, monkey B virus, herpesvirus simiae, and herpesvirus B.
  • United States’ Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has said that B Virus infections in people were rare and since its first detection in 1932, it has infected just 50 people. Only 21 of them died.
  • The infection can be transmitted via direct contact and exchange of bodily secretions of monkeys and has a fatality rate of 70 per cent to 80 per cent.
  • According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Macaque monkeys commonly have this virus, and it can be found in their saliva, feces, urine, or brain or spinal cord tissue. The virus may also be found in cells coming from an infected monkey in a lab. B virus can survive for hours on surfaces, particularly when moist.
  • The first indications of B virus infection are typically flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, muscle ache, fatigue and headache, following which an infection person may develop small blisters in the wound or area on the body that came in contact with the monkey.
  • As the disease progresses, the virus spreads to and causes inflammation (swelling) of the brain and spinal cord, leading to neurologic and inflammatory symptoms such as pain, numbness, itching near the wound site; issues with muscle coordination; brain damage and severe damage to the nervous system and in extreme cases, death.
  • Currently, there are no vaccines that can protect against B virus infection. Till date, only one case has been documented of an infected person spreading B virus to another person.