Monkey herpes B virus: what do we know about this rare infectious disease?


A man has died from an extremely rare disease in China after being exposed to monkeys. It was the herpes B virus, or “Monkey B virus” that killed him.

A 53-year-old veterinarian residing in Beijing died at the end of May 2021 from a rare disease: the monkey herpes B virus or “Monkey B virus”. He had dissected two monkeys last March and reportedly began to experience the first symptoms a month later, rapporte le Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which records its first case of transmission to humans.

This disease is not new, it has already spotted in around forty humans around the world since 1932. But it is found more in monkeys, more particularly macaques, which do not necessarily show symptoms, underlines the INRS. It has nothing to do with herpes as it is usually known in humans. It is transmitted by biting, scratching, sexually or even via drops of saliva, contaminated hands brought to the mucous membranes (eyes, for example).

Symptoms between two days and 6 weeks later

Without treatment, it is lethal in 80% of cases. Symptoms can vary widely, between 2 days and 6 weeks after being exposed. The disease in humans is manifested by fever, skin blisters, pain, tingling, paralysis around the part that has been in contact with the virus. It gradually attacks the central nervous system.

To prevent this, you must avoid direct contact with monkeys. And, in case of contact, clean the part of the body that has been infected for 15 minutes with soap, disinfect, before rinsing for 15 to 20 minutes. Then go to a doctor who is informed about this disease. There is a screening test to find out if the person is infected with the Monkey B virus.

That said, the general population would not be too much at risk, animal health workers are more so. So far, no human-to-human transmission has been recorded.

Sources :

  • Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 juillet 2021
  • INRS

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