B-Virus: Don't Monkey Around With It

B-Virus: What Is It?

Herpesvirus simiae (B-virus) is a viral disease of rhesus (Macaca mulatta), cynomolgus (M. fascicularis), and other Asiatic monkeys of the genus Macaca. In the monkey, B-virus is a relatively benign disease with primary infection commonly resulting in a blister on or near the lips. B-virus in monkeys is similar to herpes simplex virus in humans which is characterized by fever blisters on the lips. Once infected, the virus is carried in the monkey's body without clinical signs (latency), but may reactivate spontaneously or in times of stress, resulting in shedding of virus in saliva and/or genital secretions. When humans are infected with B-virus a variety of symptoms generally occur within one month of exposure. Symptoms include vesicular skin lesions (blisters) at or near the site of inoculation, flu-like symptoms such as high fever and nausea, localized neurologic symptom (numbness, itching, tingling, or pain) and ultimately encephalitis.

How Is B-Virus Spread?

Transmission of the disease to humans is commonly believed to occur by exposure to monkey saliva containing B-virus and through bites or scratches. Such exposure has not been consistently documented. Recently, the exposure and contamination of the mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, etc.) fluids have been confirmed as a method of disease transmission. Except for one instance of a person to person transmission, all cases of B-virus infection in humans have occurred in persons exposed to monkeys or monkey tissues. In general any break in the skin or a mucus membrane surface should be considered a potential B-virus entrance point. Mature adult animals are more likely than immature animals to be shedding virus at any given time.

How Is B-Virus Diagnosed?

B-virus is diagnosed by performing virus isolation and serology on samples submitted from both he patient and the monkey that cause the wound. Serum, conjunctival fluid cultures, and saliva are collected from the monkey to determine if it has been exposed to B-virus and if the virus was being shed at the time of the incident. Wound cultures from the patient as well as current (day of incident) and "banked" serum samples are collected for submission to Dr. Julia Hilliard's laboratory for testing. The results of the virus isolation and serology determine whether or not the patient was exposed and/or infected with B-virus, and the need for Acyclovir therapy.

How Is B-Virus Treated?

Immediately after the bite, scratch, or other types of potential exposure; the wound should be copiously flushed with water or a dilute bleach solution and then thoroughly scrubbed with soap and water to kill the virus. All wounds should then be seen by a trained health care professional. Prophylactic treatment of a B-virus potentially contaminated wounds with Acyclovir is recommended. If virus exposure and infection is documented Acycolvir therapy is continued and the patient should be closely monitored by a physician familiar with B-virus.

What Are The Preventive Measures For B-Virus?

Control includes personal hygiene (wash your hands), protective clothing (always wear masks and gloves), and common sense (only handle chemically restrained monkeys) in working with monkeys. Do Not Delay Your Treatment There are three important aspects to successful treatment:

1. High plasma concentration of the Acyclovir, which must be maintained by intravenous infusion after a loading dose.

2. Treatment is continuous for 14 days.

3. The earlier the treatment the greater the chance of survival. If you would like further information regarding B-virus, please call the University Health Services at 448-5630.

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