Recent cases of monkeypox have been identified by American and European health officials, mainly in young men. This is a shocking outbreak of a disease that only rarely occurs outside Africa.
Because the disease is spreading to people in the United States, health officials are monitoring the situation closely. However, they stress that there is very little risk to the general public.
WHAT IS MONKEYPOX?
Monkeypox is a viral disease that infects wild animals such as rodents, primates and humans. The majority of human cases occurred in central and western Africa, where the disease has an endemic.
Scientists first discovered the illness in 1958 after two cases of "pox"-like disease occurred in research monkeys. This was why it is called monkeypox. In 1970, a 9-year old boy from a remote area of Congo was the first to be infected.
What are the symptoms and how can they be treated?
Although it is part of the same virus family that smallpox, monkeypox causes milder symptoms.
Most people only feel fever, body aches and chills. Patients with more severe illnesses may experience a rash or lesions on their hands and face that can spread to other parts.
Incubation takes between five and three weeks. Most people are able to recover in two to four weeks, without the need to be admitted to hospital.
Monkeypox is a serious illness that can cause death in up to 10% of people. It is more common in children.
Many smallpox vaccines are available for people who have been exposed to the virus. They have been proven to be effective against monkeypox. Antiviral drugs are being developed as well.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) recommended that all suspected cases be treated immediately and that high-risk contacts receive the smallpox vaccine.
HOW MANY MONKEYPOX CAUSES ARE THERE TYPICALLY
According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 6,000 cases of monkeypox in Africa each year. The majority are found in Congo with approximately 6,000 cases per year and Nigeria with around 3,000 cases.
Experts say that many people infected by the virus are likely to be missed due to poor health monitoring systems.
Sometimes, isolated cases of monkeypox can be found outside Africa, such as in the U.S. or Britain. These cases are often associated with traveling to Africa or exposure to animals from regions where the disease is more prevalent.
In the United States, there were 47 confirmed cases or probable cases in 2003. The virus was contracted by pet prairie dogs kept near small mammals imported from Ghana.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THESE CAUSES?
This is the first instance of monkeypox spreading to people who have not traveled to Africa. The majority of cases involve men who had sex with other men.
In Europe, there have been infections in Britain, Italy Portugal, Spain, Spain, and Sweden.
The Health Security Agency of Britain stated that its cases were not all related, suggesting multiple transmission routes. The infection in Portugal was discovered at a clinic for sexual health, where the men sought treatment for lesions of their genitals.
U.S. officials announced Wednesday that a patient with monkeypox had been diagnosed in a Canadian man who recently visited the United States. Two cases were also confirmed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Officials in Quebec said that 17 cases were suspected in the Montreal area.
MONKEYPOX IS ABOUT TO BE SPREAD SEXWISE?
It is possible, but at the moment it is not clear.
Although monkeypox was not reported to have spread via sex, it has been shown that close contact with infected persons, their body fluids, and their clothing, or sheets, can transmit the disease.
Michael Skinner, a virologist from Imperial College London, stated that it is still too early to know how the infected men in the U.K. got infected.
Skinner stated that sexual activity by nature involves intimate contact. This would increase the chance of transmission regardless of a person's sexual orientation or the mode of transmission.
Francois Balloux, University College London, said that monkeypox means that sex is the type of contact required to transmit the disease.
Balloux stated that the U.K. cases do not necessarily indicate any change in virus transmission.