Monkeypox outbreaks: Here's everything you need to know

Cases of the rare monkeypox virus have been reported in Europe and the United States, implying that the smallpox-related virus is spreading locally rather than expanding owing to travel to regions where it is endemic — notably Central and West Africa.

And, unlike the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the monkeypox outbreak appears to be spreading through close contact. "What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world," David Heymann, an infectious disease epidemiology and World Health Organization (WHO) expert, told Reuters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into possible instances in the United States, including one in Massachusetts and another in New York City. "CDC is urging healthcare providers in the U.S. to be alert for patients who have rash illnesses consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have travel or specific risk factors for monkeypox and regardless of gender or sexual orientation," CDC officials said in a statement.

The WHO declared Friday (May 20) that it would host an emergency meeting to discuss the outbreaks after nearly 100 cases were confirmed across Europe, according to Reuters. Reuters reports that, while fears of a new pandemic are strong, doctors do not expect monkeypox to spread as widely as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

What is Monkeypox?

The monkeypox virus is responsible for the sickness (genus Orthopoxvirus). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is closely linked to other "pox" viruses such as vaccinia, variola major and minor (which cause smallpox), and cowpox virus (CDC).

Monkeypox was initially discovered in monkey colonies in 1958, and then in a human in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. According to the CDC, monkeypox outbreaks have occurred in Central and West Africa in subsequent years.

Is Monkeypox fatal?

According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox usually runs its course and resolves on its own in two to four weeks. However, severe cases can occur, and the WHO estimates that between 3% to 6% of persons infected with the disease die as a result. Young children have a higher risk of dying. Smallpox immunizations, which help keep people from developing monkeypox, ceased after the disease was eradicated, at different times in different countries, making people younger than 40 to 50 years old more exposed to the disease.

The current cases of monkeypox seem to be genetically related to the variant that spreads predominantly in West Africa, and is less fatal — with a case fatality rate of around 1% in these remote regions, Nature News reported.

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

According to the CDC, monkeypox starts with a fever, chills, exhaustion, muscle aches, and headache, but it can also lead to swollen lymph nodes. People may develop a rash that begins on the face and extends over the body one to three days after a fever has set in. Before going away, the rash goes through numerous stages. Macules, or light brown spots, appear first and spread across the body. Following that, papules, or raised pimples, emerge. The rash then progresses to vesicles and pustules, which resemble pus-filled pimples. These eventually scab over and fall off. According to the CDC, the disease usually lasts two to four weeks.

Like many viruses, monkeypox begins with a fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches and headache, but it also causes swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC. By one to three days after a fever sets in, people may develop a rash that starts on the face and spreads across the body. The rash evolves through several stages before disappearing. First, macules, or light brown spots, crop up across the body. Next, so-called papules, which are raised bumps, appear. After that, the rash morphs into vesicles and pustules, which look like pus-filled pimples. Finally, these scab over and fall off. The disease typically takes two to four weeks to resolve, CDC notes.

How does Monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it spreads from an animal reservoir to humans. The virus can also spread by prolonged close contact between humans. According to the WHO, intimate contact can occur through skin lesions, respiratory droplets, body fluids, or infected objects such as bedding. Infected people with active rashes might pass the infection on to others through close skin contact.

The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is substantially less infectious than monkeypox. According to Nature News, scientists are currently looking into the genomes of some of these novel cases of monkeypox to determine whether there are any changes that could promote transmission.

"COVID is spread by respiratory route and is highly infectious. This doesn't appear to be the case with the monkeypox," said Dr. Martin Hirsch, of Massachusetts General Hospital, told Reuters.


Can Monkeypox be treated?

According to the CDC, clinicians may utilize antiviral medications and vaccinia immune globulin (antibodies derived from the pooled blood of persons who were inoculated with the smallpox vaccine) to treat the infection, even though no treatment has been evaluated and proven to be safe and effective. Using a "ring vaccination" method, the smallpox and monkeypox vaccines can be used to prevent illness transmission to others. According to Live Science, close contacts of an initial case are immunized with the smallpox vaccine to prevent further spread. This technique was finally successful in eliminating smallpox in 1980.

According to the CDC, the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) possesses enough smallpox vaccine to inoculate everyone in the US.

Where has Monkeypox been detected?

More than 100 instances have been documented worldwide, with the bulk of cases occurring in Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. According to The New York Times, there are also many instances linked to an outbreak near Montreal, Canada, including one in New York City and another in Massachusetts. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Australia have all reported cases. According to The Washington Post, many of the instances are in guys aged 30 to 55 who have had sex with men.

If you think you have Monkeypox, what should you do?

If you think you could have monkeypox, call your doctor for treatment and contact information, especially if you fit into one of the following groups, according to the CDC:

—During the month before symptoms began, you traveled to Central or West Africa, places in Europe reporting monkeypox, or other areas with proven cases.

—You have had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with or suspected of having monkeypox.

—You're a man who has frequent intimate encounters with other men.

"If individuals are sick, they’re often sick for two to four weeks. It’s urgent to identify people early, get them treatment and identify contacts," according to The Atlantic, Andrea McCollum, a CDC poxvirus epidemiologist.

Monkeypox outbreaks: Here's everything you need to know Monkeypox outbreaks: Here's everything you need to know Reviewed by Lilit on May 23, 2022 Rating: 5
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