As the world slowly recovers from the COVID pandemic and plunges into a war with Russia, scientists and doctors have expressed concern about another virus that may catch many of us pantless — monkeypox.
Patients with monkeypox have already been confirmed in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, the US, Canada, and Australia. Experts are concerned about the uncharacteristic spread of the disease. After all, monkeypox was usually recorded in African countries, with some exceptions, when the disease was brought to other continents by tourists.
But according to the ECDC, the disease, which was discovered in Europe, seems to have spread from person to person. And for the first time, epidemiologists have found no direct link between patients and Africa. The World Health Organization has expressed concern about the outbreak of monkeypox and is holding daily meetings to monitor the rapidly changing situation.
What is monkeypox?
It’s a disease caused by viruses of the poxvirus family, transmitted to humans from animals, most likely from rodents and primates. The disease is transmitted by touch, saliva, blood, and consuming undercooked meat of an infected animal. So it’s not as contagious as COVID, but if you have any strange symptoms, better put on that mask.
Monkeypox is found mainly in remote areas of Central and West Africa, i.e., in regions close to tropical forests. There is no cure or fool-proof vaccine for monkeypox, but doctors say that regular vaccination against regular smallpox reduces the risk of contracting monkeypox.
Symptoms of monkeypox
The disease starts with a fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and headaches. Within one or three days after the onset of fever, the patient develops a pronounced bumpy rash on the skin, often spreading from the face throughout the body and lasting two to four weeks.
The mortality rate
The good news is that monkeypox has a much lower mortality rate than smallpox. The West African type found by scientists in Europe has a mortality rate of just under 4%. No death cases have been reported so far due to the recent outbreak.
Monkeypox cases outside of Africa
As of May 30, 2022, 257 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 23 nations but with zero fatal casualties in non-endemic countries. The first non-African country where the new disease was diagnosed was the United Kingdom. Since May 6, another 100+ people have been diagnosed with the disease. Around this time, Portugal reported 49 cases of monkeypox, Canada – 26, the US – 10, Spain — 20, Italy — 4, Belgium — 3, and France and Sweden — 2. Several countries have reported singular cases as well.
The monkeypox virus needs to be studied
Head of the virology dept at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Marion Koopmans, said this new monkeypox was probably more contagious, but we need more information. Only genetic studies will show whether the path of infection has changed.
Meanwhile, ECDC is asking public health groups to raise awareness about monkeypox. In countries where smallpox vaccines are available, the ECDC recommends getting a smallpox shot just in case. In the UK, some health professionals are being offered this vaccination. And Spain’s Ministry of Health was reportedly preparing to purchase thousands of vaccine doses to prevent a possible outbreak.
Here’s a fun fact about the smallpox virus that killed more than 300 million people since 1900. The virus has been fully eradicated by modern medicine, and the only places where you can still find it today are highly secure labs. One such laboratory is in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and the other one is in the State Research Center of Virology, located in the city of Koltsovo in Siberia.
As soon as new information about the disease appears, it will be immediately reported to the public, but try not to eat any raw monkey or rodent meat in the meanwhile.