Researcher Exposed to Herpes B Virus during Surgical Procedure

What Happened?

A researcher assisted in the removal of a medical device from an anesthetized rhesus macaque monkey. The researcher was wearing surgical attire (sterile gloves, gown, bouffant cap, shoe covers, and surgical mask) but forgot to lower their face shield to protect their eyes. When removing the device from the animal, the researcher felt fluids splash into their eye. The researcher rinsed their eyes at an eyewash station for 10 minutes and then sought medical care for a potential Herpes B virus (Cercopithecinae herpes virus 1 or CHV-1).


What Was The Cause?

The immediate cause was the lack of eye protection while handling a potentially CHV-1 infected macaque. Contributing factors included not checking PPE by other members of the surgical team and an insufficient emergency response. 

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

The animal surgical team was reminded of the PPE requirements when working around rhesus macaques. Dependent on the procedure performed, PPE should include the following:

  • Mouth and nose protection with a surgical face mask
  • Eye protection with ANSI-approved safety glasses or goggles for high splash potential use a face shield in combination with safety glasses
  • Lab coat or surgical gown and gloves
  • If required, disposable sleeves, hairnet, and shoe covers

Team PPE checks before handling macaques were operationalized.

The biosafety officer reviewed and updated the emergency response protocol for Herpes B virus exposure with the team.

Researcher with eye protection and facemask

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

Wear all required PPE correctly and follow the emergency response protocol after a potential exposure.

A Note on Herpes B Virus

Virtually all known Herpes B virus infections (50) were laboratory acquired resulting in 21 deaths. The majority were contracted from the bite of a CHV-1 infected monkey or from exposure through broken skin (scratch, cut, needle stick). At least 1 death through ocular mucous membrane exposure was reported. Untreated, Herpes B virus it has an 80% mortality rate and neurological consequences persist in survivors. Herpes B virus is usually found in macaques and infected animals are often asymptomatic. Therefore, macaques and their tissues, fluids, etc. should be handled as if they were infected with Herpes B virus. 



When injured by an animal:

  1. Remove PPE (goggles, gloves) from the affected area 
    • For wounds: scrub the site for 20 minutes with an anti-septic scrub (povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine), then cover with a clean dressing
    • For eye or face exposures: flush eyes at an eyewash station for at least 15 minutes
  2. Immediately seek medical attention for post-exposure prophylaxis
  3. Notify your supervisor, your institution’s animal safety specialist and/or campus safety officials


Herpes B Virus

  • Non-human primate virus known to infect humans
  • Risk Group 4
  • Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, persistent headache, and more
  • • Incubation period 3-7 days