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Sick Worker Says He Wasn’t Warned|About Dangers Of Monkey Bites

HOUSTON (CN) - A monkey handler sued Covance Research Products, claiming he contracted B Virus at its Texas Primate Center in Alice, due to Covance's negligence in failing to warn or train employees about how to deal with infected monkeys.

Saturnino Zuniga also sues Covance subsidiary Hazleton Research Products on behalf of his wife and son: B Virus can lead to serious brain complications.

Although the lawsuit in Harris County Court does not state as much, humans usually contract B Virus - Cercopithecine herpesvirus -from bites or scratches from infected macaques. "The consequences of symptomatic infection may be severe," the journal "Emerging Infectious Diseases" reported in 1998. "Viral infection rapidly progresses to central loci in the spinal cord and, eventually, the brain. Of 24 known symptomatic patients whose cases were reviewed in 1992, 19 - 79% - died (CDC; unpub. data). Before 1987, most surviving human patients had moderate to severe neurologic impairment, sometimes requiring lifelong institutionalization."

The paper, "B-virus from Pet Macaque Monkeys: An Emerging Threat in the United States?" says that escaped macaques have established free-living wild populations in Florida and Texas. It states that control of human-macaque interactions is difficult or impossible in these conditions.

One pet owner apparently contracted the disease from the monkey in this manner: "Kissed on lips, ate off owner's plate, shared bed."

And a child at a day-care center was severely bitten by one of eight macaques the owner kept on premises.

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