This month (May 2022), cases of monkeypox have been reported in many countries. The virus is spreading rapidly in Europe and North America. The United Kingdom (UK) has identified 20 rare viruses since the first week of May 2022.
Since May 13, 2022, cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 12 member countries that are not endemic to the monkeypox virus in three WHO regions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for an emergency meeting to discuss monkeypox to focus on infections and vaccines for this virus.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that is transmitted from animals to humans, and its symptoms are very similar to those of smallpox, but clinically less severe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox was first identified in monkeys at a Danish laboratory in 1958 and re-identified in humans in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. In the years that followed, monkeypox outbreaks occurred throughout Central and West Africa.
What is the cause of monkeypox?
Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus (Orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxvirus family). According to the CDC, this virus is closely associated with other “pox” viruses such as:
- Vaccinia (used for smallpox vaccine)
- Valiola Major and Minor (causes smallpox)
- Cowpox virus
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Symptoms of monkeypox in humans are similar to those of smallpox, but milder. Monkeypox begins with headache, fever, malaise, and muscle aches. The main difference between the symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that smallpox causes lymphadenopathy (swelling of the lymph nodes), but not smallpox. The time from monkeypox infection to symptoms (incubation period) is usually 7 to 14 days, but can range from 5 to 21 days.
The infection begins as follows:
- lower back pain
- muscle pain
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
Within 1-3 days (longer, and in some cases) after the onset of fever, an individual develops a rash. The rash most often begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.
How does monkeypox spread?
The monkeypox virus spreads when an individual comes into contact with the virus from a human, animal, or substance contaminated with the virus. The virus invades the human body through the respiratory tract, mucous membranes (mouth, eyes, or nose) or through skin damage (although not visible).
- Infection from animals to humans
Monkeypox can spread from animals to humans through scratches and bites, direct contact with lesions and body fluids, or indirect contact with lesions such as the preparation of contaminated bedding and bushmeat. The term “bushmeat” refers to raw or minimally processed meat from wildlife.
- Communication from person to person
Monkeypox is thought to spread from human to human, primarily through large respiratory droplets. In general, flügge droplets cannot move more than a few feet. Therefore, long-term face-to-face contact is required for the virus to spread. Modes of transmission from person to person include direct contact with lesions or body fluids and indirect contact with lesions such as virus-contaminated linen and clothing.
Although African rodents are suspected of being involved in the epidemic, the carriers (or reservoir hosts) of the major diseases of the monkeypox virus are still unknown.
What is the cure for Monkeypox?
Although no specific cure for monkeypox has been proven, the antivirals and vaccinia immunoglobulins used for smallpox are effective in treating the disease along with symptomatic treatment.
How to prevent monkeypox?
There are many measures to prevent monkeypox virus infection:
- Avoid direct contact with animals that may contain the virus. This includes animals that are found to be sick or dead in areas where monkeypox is endemic.
- Avoid contact with substances that were in contact with sick animals.
- Isolate the infected person from others who may be at risk.
- Practice hand hygiene after contact with infected humans and animals. For example, wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for an infected patient.
- In addition, vaccines against smallpox are about 85 percent more effective in preventing monkeypox.
How much do you need to worry about monkeypox?
The outbreaks reported so far have been atypical because they occur in countries where the monkeypox virus is not regularly endemic. Most of the reported cases have been detected in Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
However, the mode of infection of this virus is much easier to prevent and control than viruses that contain aerosolized components such as COVID-19 and measles.
Disease prevention strategies for COVID-19, such as masking, social distance, increased ventilation, and staying home in case of illness, can also help combat monkeypox. Hand hygiene is also important. This is a DNA virus and is suitable for surface survival.
Cases of monkeypox are increasing in many countries. The disease is similar to smallpox, but less severe. Health experts believe that monkeypox spreads not through the air, such as COVID-19 or measles, but through contact with body fluids that carry the virus.
Vaccines and treatments for smallpox are somewhat effective against infections, so health experts say they don’t have to worry yet. In addition, the strategies used for COVID-19, such as social distance and hand hygiene, can help prevent this disease.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is anyone in India infected with monkeypox?
Outbreaks of monkeypox occur in countries where the monkeypox virus is not regularly endemic. Most of the reported cases have been detected in Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, no cases of monkeypox have been reported in India yet.
The United Ministry of Health has instructed the Indian Medical Research Council (ICMR) and the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCdC) to carefully monitor this outbreak. In addition, if the number of cases increases, the government may begin screening for people arriving from the affected countries.
Which doctor should I talk to about monkeypox?
If you suspect monkeypox, consult a general practitioner. Your doctor will check you before doing the test to confirm your diagnosis. Patients infected with monkeypox are also quarantined to prevent their spread.
What are the complications of monkeypox infection?
There may be a soft tissue infection during the illness skin rash stage. Monkeypox infections also have other complications such as encephalitis, pneumonitis, and other eye (eye) problems, but they may not be as severe as smallpox.