A thief who broke into a zoo in Tasmania, Australia, may now be infected with a deadly monkey virus.
A city official in Launceston said the intruder broke into a monkey enclosure in a city park on Tuesday, stole coins from a moat surrounding the enclosure and caused “damage to the electric fencing.”
The city said in a Facebook statement that the intruder could have contracted herpes B, a deadly virus carried by the park’s monkeys. Herpes B is an extremely rare virus and can lead to severe brain damage and even death.
The virus is usually contracted if the person is scratched or bitten by a monkey carrying it. It can also be spread through the monkey’s nose, eyes and mouth.
“The virus can be asymptomatically shed by the monkeys through bodily fluids and ‘fomites’—that is, any material that has come into contact with the virus, which includes the water in the enclosure,” the city’s statement said. “The Council urges the intruder to seek medical attention as a matter of urgency. We ask anyone with information regarding the break-in to contact Tasmania Police .”
Herpes B is not harmful to monkeys . The Japanese macaque monkeys have been living in the city park ever since they were sent as a gift to Launceston from Ikeda, Japan—its sister city—in a swap for 10 wallabies, the Cessnock Advertiser reported.
The wider community is not considered to be in any danger from the virus if the intruder has contracted it. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ), there has been only one recorded case of human-to-human transmission.
Herpes B first brings flu-like symptoms. An infected person may experience fever, muscle ache, chills or a headache. These symptoms can occur anytime from three days to a month after contact with a monkey.
Next, an infected person may notice blisters around the area that had contact with the monkey . They might experience nausea and vomiting, stomach pains, hiccups and shortness of breath.
As the virus progresses within the person’s system, it can cause brain and spinal cord inflammation. That can lead to numbness, itching and pain in certain areas of the body.
An infected person may then notice impaired muscle coordination. The infection can lead to brain and nervous system damage, which could result in death
It is possible for an infected person to show no symptoms before the infection becomes serious, but there have been no studies on this, according to the CDC.