Unless you have been living under a rock in the past month, you must have heard of the monkey pox virus which is on the verge of becoming an epidemic.
This is a zoonotic infection which means it is an infection that is transferred to humans from animals, and in this case, monkeys.
The Monkeypox infection has been around for quite some time unlike the bat-induced COVID-19. It has been occurring mostly in Western and central Africa.
Even one case of a virus in a non-endemic country is considered an outbreak. However, the sudden amplification of monkeypox virus in different countries simultaneously shows that monkeypox virus might have been transmitting undetected for quite some time.
The Monkeypox Discovery
- The Monkeypox virus was first discovered in 1958 amongst monkeys, hence the name ‘monkeypox’. The first occurance of the monekypox virus in humans was recorded in 1970 in Congo. This was the same time when the world was battling smallpox.
- While the Monkeypox outbreak was stopped by health officials nearly 20 years ago, this infection resurfaces after a while.
- In 2003, US reported a monkeypox outbreak which had affected 47 people. However, the recent strain of the Monkeypox has spread to more than 23 countries according to the WHO
- Since the Monkeypox virus comes from the same family as smallpox, it also has similar symptoms.
Symptoms of Monkeypox
Monkeypox symptoms mostly follow an order. The initial symptoms of the Monkeypox infection are:
- Body ache
- Swollen lymph nodes
These symptoms follow rashes similar to the smallpox which result in red bumps all over the skin. These rashes can be painful as well as extremely itchy. However, they complete the entire cycle before forming a scab which falls off when the monkeypox is healing.
The infection can last anywhere from 5 to 21 days. Most of those infected recover within a few weeks without any treatment except ailments for alleviating the rash pain and itchiness.
If the rashes are scratched off and mistreated before they form scabs and fall off on their own after drying, it can cause scarring which can last for a long time.
7 Things you Must Know about the Monkeypox
Even though Monkeypox is not as fatal as the COVID-19, it is still a spreadable virus that can cause COVID-19 like restrictions on travel and social distancing.
So, here are some points you must know about the Monkeypox in case it becomes an epidemic and then a pandemic like the COVID-19.
1. It’s from the smallpox family
Monkeypox has emerged from a virus of the same name that is related to smallpox. Even though smallpox has been eradicated because of stringent measures and vaccines, monkeypox surfaced in monkeys.
In 2020 a suspected 4,594 suspected cases of monkeypox were reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). This included 171 deaths from the monkeypox infection which resulted in a case fertility percentage to rise to 3.7%.
The infection is only diagnosed by suspecting and not through PCR testing as it is not easily accessible and affordable to endemic areas where monkeypox is common.
2. It causes rashes all over
Visible symptoms like rashes appear 5 to 13 days after contracting the infection. However, it may take as much as 21 days to appear.
The rashes are not limited to outside of the body. So, someone with monkeypox might have rashes inside the mouth, in the cornea, and on the genitals.
Although the fatality rate is low, children are much more susceptible to fatality. One in ten cases of monkeypox can be fatal, although there have been no reported deaths of the monkeypox outbreaks in 2022.
However, one does not know how the virus will mutate. Therefore, it is better to stay cautious of the symptoms and assure that the prevention measures are in place like using masks and maintaining cleanliness.
3. Diagnosis also requires a PCR test
Orthopoxviruses, the family of viruses that causes rashes includes measles, chickenpox, smallpox, and monkeypox virus has similar looking rashes. So, to pinpoint exactly to the type of infection that is occurring, a PCR test is necessary.
4. It is highly contagious
While the virus has spread from infected animals such as primates and rodents from West and central Africa, the human-to-human transmission is very quick.
Therefore, when in close proximity, a host carrying the infection or someone who is infected but has not yet shown the visible symptoms might be the major cause of spreading the virus.
Furthermore. Contaminated materials from respiratory droplets like clothes, bedding, documentation, or household items could be sources to spread the virus amongst family members.
The contagiousness of the monkeypox virus is the same as the COVID-19, therefore requires similar protocol and prevention.
5. There’s no cure, but a (very old) vaccine
Currently we do not have any cure for monkeypox other than Pramoxine/calamine topical for the relief of pain and itchiness from the rashes. Antivirals like tecovirimat are also often prescribed to overcome the symptoms of orthopoxviruses
However, health officials battled the monkeypox virus through a vaccine before and it could be about 85% effective in preventing the monkeypox virus . However, the first-generation vaccines are no longer manufactured, therefore, no longer available to the public.
A new vaccine that was developed in 2019 for the prevention of monkeypox virus and smallpox is available, but not widely available.
6. Management of monkeypox is case of widespread
Just like the COVID-19, the monkeypox virus, if spread to a great degree, will be controlled through isolation. The cases identified would be isolated in a single sell for a period of 21 days.
Preventing the spread would probably include using masks outdoors and continuously using hand sanitizers to get rid of germs from contaminated materials.
7. Gay Men Most at Risk
Hannah Newman, MPH and the director of epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital said that people who come in contact with dead or live animals, those who consume meat of wild animals, and those coming in close contact with infected individuals are at most risk of the monkeypox virus.
She also stated that mortality rate and disease severity is higher in immunocompromised individuals, young adults, and children.
Sexual transmission may also play a role and a shocking discovery is that those who identify as gay or men having sex with men are more at risk than others.
Final Note – What Should You Do?
While the monkeypox is spreading like crazy, it is time to re-establish the precautions we took during the COVID-19 like maintaining cleanliness, washing hands frequently, and wearing masks when out in public.
Although no deaths have been reported in the 2022 outbreak till now, no one knows what direction the virus takes and how it mutates.
In any case, prevention is better than cure.