Non-Human Primates (monkeys)

B Virus Information and Guidelines

These guidelines are to protect workers including veterinarians, laboratory workers, and others who come into contact with, or handle tissues derived from, old world non-human primates (NHP), particularly macaque monkeys. For details, refer to the UF Animal Contact Program, the UF Biological Safety Manual and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website.


B virus, formerly called Cercopithecine herpes virus 1 is now known as Macacine herpesvirus. It is also known as herpes B virus, monkey B virus or Herpesvirus simiae. The virus is endemic among monkeys of the genus Macaca which includes “Old World” monkeys such as rhesus and pig-tailed macaques, cynomolgus monkeys, and others. 


Infected monkeys maybe asymptomatic or may have mild lesions on the mouth, face, lips, and or genitals. The lesions heal spontaneously but may appear again sporadically in the same way that cold sores do in humans.

In humans, B virus causes acute, usually fatal encephalitis. Any monkey handler who has an exposure event and then notices skin lesions or symptoms such as itching, pain, or numbness near the wound or exposure site should notify the supervisor and seek medical attention immediately.

Mode of transmission

Transmission of B virus occurs through monkey bites, scratches, or contact with infected monkey tissues, cells, or fluids, including blood, saliva, urine, and feces.

Monkey Handling Practices

All old-world primates, regardless of their origin, should be treated as positive for B virus.

Those who work in direct contact with non-human primates or equipment used to contain, transport, or handle these animals or enter the rooms housing these animals must wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) described in the UF Animal Contact Program and the UF Biological Safety Manual. Use of PPE is not optional.

UF has adopted the CDC’s “Guidelines for Prevention of Herpesvirus Simiae (B Virus) Infection in Monkey Handlers” published in 1987. These handling practices are required by Animal Care Services and Environmental Health & Safety. 

Exposure Events

Any known or suspected exposure to old-world primate fluids requires immediate medical care. The CDC and NIH have published a post-exposure protocol, “Recommendations for Prevention of and Therapy for Exposure to B Virus (Cercopithecine Herpesvirus 1)” for reference.

A brief summary of the above reference document is given as below.

  1. In the event of a mucous membrane or eye exposure, immediately (within 5 minutes) irrigate the area with free-flowing water for 15 minutes.
  2. In the event of a bite or scratch, immediately (within 5 minutes) wash the wound with soap and water for 15-20 minutes. Gently massaging the wound is helpful. Length of washing time is more important than the use of soap.
  3. Seek medical attention immediately by calling Needlestick-Biological Exposure Hotline: 1-866-477-6824. They will direct you for further action. Post exposure prophylaxis and follow-up will be carried out according to CDC guidelines under the care of a university physician who is an infectious disease specialist(s).
  4. Bite or scratch from non-human primates: contact the following physician / specialists regarding B virus exposure:
    •   Dr.Kenneth Rand      Work Phone – (352) 392-5621  Pager – (888)-553-2503
    1. The physicians will evaluate the injury and may decide to culture the wound for B-virus or collect blood for a baseline titer against B-virus, or use prescription drugs for preventative therapy. The physician directing the care of the patient will contact the Director of Animal Care Services for instructions regarding the need for cultures or serology from the monkey inflicting the injury upon the patient.
    2. Symptoms suggestive of B virus infection should be reported immediately to the medical consultant. When the possibility of B virus illness is seriously entertained, appropriate diagnostic studies should be performed and specific antiviral therapy should be instituted. The physician may wish to consult Dr. Scott Schmid at (404) 639-0066; cell: 404-725-5652 at Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Herpes (MMRH) Branch, Division of Viral Diseases, CDC, and Dr. Julia Hilliard at (404) 413-6560; cell: 404-358-8168, at National B Virus Resource Center at Georgia State University for laboratory assistance.

Last Updated in June, 2012 By Biosafety @ Environmental Health and Safety.