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Hong Kong Resident Battles Critical Condition Following Monkey Assault: Insights on Lethal ‘Herpes B’ Infection

Since there is no available vaccine to guard against B virus infection, it is imperative to avoid contact with macaque monkeys and prevent any potential bites or scratches.

Unveiling the Recent B Virus Case in Hong Kong

The victim’s specific injuries remain undisclosed. However, reports indicate that several weeks following the encounter, the individual fell ill. He was subsequently admitted to Yan Chai Hospital’s emergency department on March 21, manifesting symptoms of fever and a ‘decreased conscious level’.

Monkey Encounters and the Risk of Infection

While monkey attacks and bites are not uncommon globally, a recent incident in Hong Kong has garnered international attention in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. A 37-year-old man in Hong Kong is currently battling a severe herpes infection contracted from monkeys, sparking health concerns. Following injuries sustained from wild macaques during a visit to Kam Shan Country Park, also known as ‘Monkey Hill’, the victim’s health rapidly deteriorated. Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection disclosed this as the first recorded human case of B virus transmission from animals to humans, highlighting the rare occurrence of zoonotic spillover.

Insight into the B Virus Case in Hong Kong

Specific details regarding the victim’s injuries remain undisclosed. Reports suggest that several weeks post-incident, the man, who was reportedly in ‘good past health’, began displaying symptoms. He sought medical attention at Yan Chai Hospital’s emergency department on March 21, presenting with fever and a ‘decreased conscious level’. Recent tests on his cerebrospinal fluid confirmed the presence of the B virus, indicating a critical condition.

Understanding the B Virus

Commonly referred to as the herpes simiae virus, B virus infection is considered ‘extremely rare’ but can result in severe brain damage or fatality without prompt medical intervention, as per the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typically, individuals contract the B virus through ‘bites or scratches’ from an infected monkey or via contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose, or mouth.

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Severity of the Condition

Initial symptoms of a B virus infection often include fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, and headaches. Additionally, individuals may develop ‘small blisters’ at the wound site or the area that came into contact with the infected monkey. Symptoms typically manifest within a month of exposure to the virus but can also appear within three to seven days. Other symptoms may entail:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hiccups

As the disease progresses, the virus may spread and cause inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, leading to neurological and inflammatory symptoms, muscle coordination issues, severe brain and nervous system damage, and potentially death.

Preventive Measures

Given the absence of a vaccine against B virus infection, it is crucial to avoid close contact with macaque monkeys and prevent bites or scratches. The CDC emphasizes refraining from touching or feeding monkeys to mitigate the risk of infection.

First Aid Recommendations

In the event of exposure to a macaque monkey:

  • Thoroughly cleanse and gently scrub the wound with soap, detergent, or iodine for 15 minutes.
  • Continue rinsing the wound with water for an additional 15 to 20 minutes before seeking medical attention.
  • Inform your healthcare provider about the encounter with a potentially infected macaque monkey.

Treatment may involve the administration of antiviral medications.