Published June 9, 2022, 10:07 a.m. by None
Well, first of all, monkeypox does not come from monkeys.
It’s called monkeypox because it was first isolated from a monkey in Africa,
but the reservoir for it is in rodents, specifically rodents in Central and
West Africa. We’ve been aware of monkeypox for decades, and we have been
interested in it mostly because it’s a cousin of smallpox. It is a related
orthopoxvirus. The symptoms, although somewhat less severe, are quite similar
to smallpox. In most cases, it causes relatively mild illness, meaning most
people don’t end up in the hospital with it.
There are two strains: one in the Congo Basin, which tends
to be more severe, and another in West Africa, which is less severe. And that
is the strain that seems to be causing the current outbreak. What are the symptoms of monkeypox?The virus causes fever, chills, and skin bumps that typically start on the face and spread to other body parts. Mouth sores also are common. For some people, the only symptoms are an itchy or painful rash around the genitals or anus.Symptoms often appear 6 to 13 days after a person is infected with the monkeypox virus and can last 2 to 4 weeks. Most people experience a mild case and recover without treatment or hospitalization. Newborns, children, and people with compromised immune systems may experience more severe infections. The West African strain of the virus — which has been identified in the European cases of the current outbreak is less severe and lethal. Nobody has died in the outbreak so far.How is it transmitted?Transmission of the monkeypox virus among humans is limited, but it can happen through close skin contact, air droplets, bodily fluids, and virus-contaminated objects.Most of the recent cases of monkeypox in the U.K. and Canada have been reported among attendees of sexual health services at health clinics in men who have sex with men.Regarding this trend, Dr. I. Socé Fall, the regional emergencies director for the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, cautioned:“This is new information we need to investigate properly to understand better the dynamic of local transmission in the U.K. and some other countries.”What is the prognosis?Monkeypox symptoms usually clear within 2-4 weeks without treatment. In recent times, the mortality rate has been between 3-6%, mostly among young children and immunocompromised individuals.Is it painful?Typically, it is not excruciatingly painful. There’s a broad spectrum of illnesses: Some people have only one or two pox, while others are covered in pox. Those people who have it everywhere are miserable, and those people who have just a few don’t feel that bad at all.Is there a one-time vaccination? There are three vaccines available. One vaccine is licensed for monkeypox as well as smallpox and is a two-shot vaccine, one-shot initially and another shot four weeks later. The other vaccines are one-time vaccinations.How are public health authorities responding?According to the WHO, health authorities are responding through the following measures:Ongoing public health investigations in non-endemic countries that have identified cases, including contact tracing, lab investigation, clinical management, and isolation with supportive care.Genomic sequencing, where available, has determined the monkeypox virus clade(s) infecting individuals. Scientists are working to determine if the recent infections in Europe are related to strains in Africa.Vaccination for monkeypox, where available, is being deployed to manage close contacts, such as health workers.Is there anything else people should be aware of?No, people, in general, don’t need to be that aware of this. Local and state health departments certainly need to be aware of it, and I’m sure they are on the lookout for it. Frontline health care workers should be aware of it and should be taking travel histories, someone presenting with fever and rash ought to be asked a few more questions. But for the general public, I think this is not a concern.