(ORDO NEWS) — Like its close relative, the smallpox virus, monkeypox is a pathogen of the orthopoxvirus family.
It is transmitted through contaminated body fluids or through close contact with infected people and other animals, and can cause mild to severe illness and, in some cases, death.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
About a week or two after infection, the virus causes fever, headaches, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. After a few days, a rash may appear, usually on or around the face, which may develop into blisters and pustules that crust over and heal over the following weeks.
Although similar in many ways to smallpox, monkeypox is fortunately considered to be self-limiting, making it much less severe.
However, monkeypox is still considered a serious disease, with permanent complications ranging from the effects of sepsis and encephalitis to blindness due to an eye infection. Without medical treatment or vaccination, nearly one in ten infected people is at risk of fatal complications, especially among young children.
Compared to the horrors of smallpox, which claimed the lives of almost one in three infected people at its peak, monkeypox may not seem so terrible. But if we have learned something from the COVID-19 pandemic, then it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to potentially deadly viruses.
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is spread between people through close contact with a person who has the smallpox rash. This can be face to face, skin to skin, mouth to mouth, or mouth to skin. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus can be spread through short-range droplets or aerosols if someone has mouth sores or sores.
People are considered contagious until all of their lesions have crusted over, though scientists still have a lot to learn about recent outbreaks.
Can you get monkeypox from a surface?
An infected person can spread the smallpox virus to a surface such as clothing, a mobile phone, a toilet seat, or bedding. Then another person working with these objects can become infected.
According to the WHO, the virus can also be transmitted to the fetus during pregnancy.
It is not yet clear whether the virus can be transmitted between people by asymptomatic carriers.
Should we be worried about the monkeypox pandemic?
On July 23, 2022, the WHO issued an official statement declaring the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. At the time of the announcement, more than 16,000 cases had been reported in 74 countries.
Since the experts of the organization could not reach a consensus on whether such a high level of caution was justified, the final decision was made by WHO head Tedros Adhanom.
In the past, outbreaks were limited to a handful of infected people, with little to no human-to-human transmission.
Therefore, earlier distribution was limited. What’s more, unlike SARS-CoV-2, monkeypox cannot spread through the air. Because the smallpox vaccine is effective against the virus, the authorities are already heavily armed if concerns continue to mount.
The apparent spread of the virus is indicative of the ease with which viruses move with increased travel and reduced hygiene. As seen with the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, close association with risk behaviors and minority demographics can contribute to stigmatization that makes dealing with infections more difficult.
As well-prepared as a society as we are to prevent the spread of viruses, COVID-19 has shown how quickly populations can become complacent, distrustful and tired of community and even personal healthcare.
Why is the disease called monkeypox?
The name “monkey pox” was coined in 1958 after an outbreak of the virus among test monkeys at a research center in Copenhagen.
However, don’t let the name fool you – although monkeys can become infected and transmit the virus, it is most commonly contracted through popular sources of so-called “artisanal meat” such as dormis and African squirrels.
The first human case was not identified until 1970, when WHO focused its efforts on eradicating smallpox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today, the majority of infections still occur in this central African country, although outbreaks have been reported in a number of neighboring countries.
Why is monkeypox spreading around the world right now?
While outbreaks of monkeypox made headlines in 2022, this is not the first time the virus has been detected outside of African populations.
In mid-2003, the CDC reported 71 cases in six US states, with 35 cases confirmed by laboratory testing to be monkeypox virus. All of these confirmed cases involved infected prairie dogs purchased from an animal distributor in Illinois, which were in turn infected with Gambian giant rats and dormis imported from Ghana.
Three cases were also reported in the UK in 2018. Surprisingly, one of the cases was not directly related to the other two. They all recently traveled to Nigeria, where monkeypox is known to circulate.
At first glance, the multiple simultaneous outbreaks that took place in mid-2022 may look like a potential pandemic, especially given the recent emergence of the devastating SARS-CoV-2.
Most of those infected appear to be the result of close intimate contact (mostly between men) and were diagnosed after contacting medical facilities. No deaths have been reported at the time of this writing.
Since there is no evidence of a mutation that could increase the virulence of the microbe, it is likely that the sudden surge in travel and the easing of COVID restrictions contributed to the outbreaks.
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