Science & Tech

Man hospitalised with rare virus after monkey bite in Hong Kong

Man hospitalised with rare virus after monkey bite in Hong Kong
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Aljazeera / VideoElephant

A man has been hospitalised and is in a critical condition after contracting a rare virus from a monkey bite in Hong Kong.

According to Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, the unnamed 37-year-old is in intensive care after he tested positive for a rare virus called herpesvirus simiae, or B virus.

The man’s family revealed he sustained a wound in February when a monkey bit him during a visit to Kam Shan Country Park, which is also known as Monkey Hill.

The following month, the man went to Yan Chai Hospital complaining of a fever and decreased consciousness and, as of the latest information on 3 April, remains in the intensive care unit.

B virus occurs in the urine, faeces, and saliva of macaques who roam freely in Hong Kong’s public spaces. Despite this, there have only been 50 confirmed cases of the virus in humans worldwide since the first documented case in 1932. 21 of the infected people died, according to the Centers for Disease Control in the US.

If left untreated, the death rate sits at around 70 per cent. However, with medical advancements, antiviral therapies and treatments have improved but the survival rate is not 100 per cent. In 2021, a 53-year-old vet in Beijing died from B virus, making it the first death from the disease in China.

Death from the disease typically occurs due to inflammation of the nervous system, including the brain and the spinal cord. Other less severe flu-like symptoms include fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain and shortness of breath.

The monkeys in Hong Kong are a big tourist attraction and it is not impossible for B virus to jump to humans. While it currently remains rare and has difficulty jumping from one species to another, just a few small adaptations could see it easily able to transmit and spread.

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