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New Virus 'Jumps' From Monkey to Scientist, Causing Serious Illness

A never-before detected strain of virus that killed more than one-third of a monkey colony at a U.S. lab appears to have 'jumped' from the animals to sicken a human scientist, researchers report.

Although it's an unusual move for that type of virus and does warrant further monitoring, the researchers stress there is no cause for alarm at this time. There is no evidence the virus has spread beyond the single scientist -- who recovered from her illness -- nor is there even proof that the virus would be transmissible between humans.

Still, "there is very strong evidence to suggest a cross-species transmission event happened," said lead investigator Dr. Charles Chiu, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and medicine/infectious diseases at the University of California San Francisco. "I don't think people should be worried about this right now. It's more of a worry to public health officials monitoring these new viruses that have the potential for causing outbreaks."

The study was presented Friday at the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

The scientist appears to have caught the virus while investigating an outbreak of illness among a colony of Titi monkeys at the California National Primate Research Center in Davis, Chiu said.

Among the monkeys, the virus was highly contagious and deadly: Of 55 monkeys housed at the center, 23 (about 40 percent) became seriously ill with upper respiratory symptoms that progressed to pneumonia and an inflammation of the liver. Nineteen monkeys, or about 83 percent of those infected, died.
 
 

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