Occupational Health Clinic
September 27, 2011

Herpes B (also known as Macacine herpesvirus 1 or Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1) is a virus carried by certain monkeys called macaques. When the monkey gets herpes B virus, it makes a blister on or near the monkey's lips. After the blister heals, the virus hides inside the monkey and you would not know the monkey has had the virus. The virus may be in its mouth, hands or other body parts. When a monkey bites, scratches, or spits on a worker, the virus may pass to that worker. Herpes B virus does not make monkeys very sick but can make people very sick and even cause death. A person sick with herpes B virus may exhibit flu-like symptoms including high fever, sick stomach, numbness, itching, tingling or pain.

All Division of Animal Care Faculty and Staff, as well as others who have contact with non-human primates (including research staff), are at potential risk for herpes B virus infection and are required to participate in the Occupational Health Clinic (OHC) medical surveillance program. All at-risk employees complete an annual medical questionnaire and physical exam, as well as a review of proper steps to follow if they are bitten, splashed, or scratched. These steps include flushing the wound many times with water, then scrubbing the area for 15 minutes and then immediately (do not delay!) following up in OHC or, if after-hours, the Emergency Department. In addition, if an employee is exposed, OHC provides medical evaluation and preventive medication if necessary.

The full exposure evaluation consists of an initial visit to OHC as well as follow-up visits at 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and (if medication is prescribed), 6 weeks. In addition to a brief history and physical exam related to exposure, each visit will also include a blood draw. The blood draws are antibody tests that will indicate whether or not your immune system has "seen" the herpes B virus. If you've never been infected with the herpes B virus, your initial (baseline) test will be negative. That "baseline" test will then be compared to the results of your follow-up antibody tests. If the antibody test turns positive, that can indicate infection.

In addition to a blood test, the initial visit will also include a swab of the wound site. The swab will be tested to see if any herpes B virus from the monkey is present in the wound. If virus is present, it would put you at higher risk of infection and be one reason why medication may be prescribed.

The monkey that caused the exposure will also have blood drawn by the Division of Animal Care staff to see if it has antibodies to herpes B virus, which (just like in humans) would mean that at some point, the monkey was infected with the virus. It will also have swabs of its mucous membranes (such as its nose, eyes, and genital region) to see if any virus is present. These tests of the monkey will help guide your treatment in the event of an exposure.

If herpes B virus infection is documented (by blood test) or you have any signs/symptoms of infection, you will be hospitalized for IV medication. During hospitalization, a physician familiar with herpes B virus will closely monitor you.

Additional information:

CDC Information on simian herpes B virus

Vanderbilt Division of Animal Care (VUNetID/password login required)

Keywords: Simian Herpes B, B virus, herpes B, herpesvirus B, cercopithicine virus, monkey, primate, macaque, AAALAC, OSHA