Everything You Need to Know About MonkeyPox
While this is the first time many have heard about the monkeypox outbreak, the virus has been said to be infecting people for many years. The first confirmed case was in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo when a child suspected of having smallpox had the virus.
The virus is endemic in several countries in Central and West Africa. But when monkeypox cases were reported beyond these regions and among those who didn't travel to these endemic areas, it raised global health concerns.
What is Monkeypox?
It is important to note that monkeypox doesn't come from monkeys. It's named monkeypox because the first virus was isolated from a monkey. Specifically, rodents like rats, squirrels, and dormice carry the virus. Monkeypox is a cousin to smallpox which belong to a family of viruses known as Orthopoxvirus. The symptoms are pretty similar to smallpox but less severe.
The infection happens in two stages. First, a victim may experience flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, body aches, headache, and exhaustion as the virus enters the body system. Patients may also have enlarged lymph nodes as the immune system tries to fight the infection.
During the second stage, "pox" or smallpox-like lesions appear, but they are milder than those of smallpox. The rash may begin on the face and spread to the legs, arms, hands, feet, and trunk.
How Has It Emerged Recently?
The sudden emergence of monkeypox in many non-endemic countries has raised many questions about the virus. Since 13 May 2022, 12 WHO Member States that are not virus endemic have reported monkeypox cases. Though the epidemiological investigations are being performed, reported cases have no travel links to endemic regions.
But what is contributing to the increasing outbreaks of the virus? According to Prof. Raina MacIntyre, head of the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute, the decrease in immunity from smallpox vaccination may be the cause. Also, a report published in the Journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases associated the virus with the cessation of smallpox vaccination which offered bonus protection against monkeypox.
Where Are Monkeypox Cases Coming Up?
According to the WHO, 23 countries have reported around 257 confirmed cases and about 120 cases under investigation as of 26 May 2022. The first case was found in the United Kingdom. From 18 May 2022, more cases were reported in several countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, North Africa, and Australia. And by 6 June, 1,033 patients had been confirmed.
What Does It Mean for Public Health?
The ongoing monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries has perplexed public health experts. However, the WHO said the outbreak has a moderate risk to global public health. Monkeypox is unlikely to result in another pandemic, but with the impacts of Covid-19 still fresh in minds, it's understandable to have concerns.
The Person-to-person spread of the virus is not easy. Still, the rise in monkeypox cases raises the possibility that the virus may have mutated to make transmission easy from one person to another. WHO has published interim guidance on laboratory testing, surveillance, case investigation, and contact tracing to avoid the further spread of the virus. While the risk to the general public appears to be low, immediate action is necessary to prevent further spread.
Many cases have occurred among men who have sex with men in the current outbreak. However, experts have warned against declaring the virus a sexually transmitted disease or attributing the spread to specific groups. Further investigations are being done to understand the transmission.
Is There a Chance This Is Being Overhyped by the Media?
According to health authorities, monkeypox will not result in another pandemic since the risks to the general public are low. However, experts believe that the current outbreak is spread through close contact with a person having the infection. The disease causes pus-filled lesions on the skin, and close contact with the fluid, including contact with the contaminated bedding and clothing, can spread the virus.
The monkeypox news has hit every news house because the virus has spread in non-endemic regions. However, the intense social media coverage has generated hype that has, directly and indirectly, caused stigmatization.
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