Herpes B Virus Infection

Herpes B virus infection is caused by the Cercopithecine Herpes Virus 1 and is typically seen after bites or scratches from monkeys. The illness ranges from asymptomatic cases to severe neurologic disease with paralysis and possible death.

Where does it occur?

Herpes B virus is primarily harbored by Rhesus monkeys native to Asia. However, given the worldwide distribution of these monkeys through zoo’s and animal research facilities the illness can occur anywhere.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted primarily through bites, scratches or other trauma when interacting with monkeys, their cages or monkey cell cultures in laboratories. Isolated reports of airborne or person to person transmission have been reported.

Is it contagious from person to person?

Rare cases of person to person transmission have occurred in laboratory settings.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk for travelers is minimal unless one is into petting or feeding every wild or domesticated monkey they come into contact with.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms can be seen as early as 3 days and as late as 3 months after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The illness begins with flu like symptoms of fever, body aches, headaches and clusters of small 2-3 mm boils at the site of injury. Subsequently painful, swollen lymph nodes develop in close proximity to the area of injury. Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting are also commonly reported.

The illness then progresses to pain, numbness and tingling in the area of injury and as the virus progressively infects the nervous system it can lead to unsteady gait, paralysis and death in nearly 70% of infected people.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Blood antibody tests (IgM/IgG) are difficult and needs to be done at special reference labs. Immmunoblot and ELISA tests are more reliable. The virus can also be cultured from body fluids and blood, but it takes time.

Is there any treatment?

Antiviral medications like acyclovir and ganciclovir are used for the treatment of this illness

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid contact with wild or domesticated monkey on your travels.

If you suffer an injury, wash and clean the wound thoroughly and seek medical attention for preventive treatment with antibiotics like valacyclovir, acyclovir or famciclovir.

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