Cases of Monkeypox, a disease that appears quite like smallpox, have been increasing in Britain, Spain, and Portugal and have also been detected in Canada and the U.S., Reuters reported.
Caused by a virus belonging to the genus Orthopoxvirus, monkeypox was first reported in 1958 when two outbreaks were seen in monkeys kept for research purposes, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website. Monkeys, however, aren't the carriers of the disease. It is transmitted by small rodents like rats, squirrels, and dormice.
How does monkeypox spread?
The disease likely spreads from an animal bite or scratch or coming in contact with bodily fluid. Typical symptoms of the disease include fever, body aches, and distinct painful fluid-filled blisters on the hands, feet, and even face. Although human-to-human transmission is rare, it can happen if one comes in contact with the pus lesions or bodily fluids of an infected individual.
Monkeypox has largely remained endemic to the western and central parts of Africa; and while previous outbreaks have been reported in Israel, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. before, the recent outbreak has epidemiologists puzzled.
Previous instances of monkeypox infections outside Africa have been found in individuals who traveled to regions where the disease is prevalent. Out of the eight cases in the U.K., seven do not have a travel history nor have they come in contact with the one person who recently traveled to Nigeria, NPR reported. Similarly, the one case reported in the U.S. does not have a travel history to any African nation, but had been to Canada recently.
An infectious disease epidemiologist at the U.K. Health Security Agency revealed his thoughts about the route of transmission.
What is even more bizarre is finding cases that appear to have acquired the infection via sexual contact - this is a novel route of transmission that will have implications for outbreak response and control.— Mateo Prochazka (@teozka) May 17, 2022
While this does not confirm that the virus has found a new route of transmission, the UKHSA has urged gay and bisexual men to contact their sexual health service if they have concerns or notice unusual rashes or lesions.
How dangerous is monkeypox?
There is no specific treatment for monkeypox and most infected individuals recover after symptomatic treatment in a few weeks. However, of the two variants of the virus, one has a mortality rate of 10 percent of infected individuals, while the other has a relatively milder rate of one percent.
A monkeypox outbreak occurred in the U.S. in 2003, whereas many as forty-seven individuals were suspected to be infected with the virus, the CDC says on its website. There were no person-to-person transmissions reported back then and all individuals recovered from the infection.
Experts told Reuters that the virus may be circulating in the community undetected and could be a reflection of its higher prevalence in Africa. Since the monkeypox virus belongs to the same genus as the variola virus, the infectious agent behind smallpox, epidemiologists are on a high alert and are tracking its spread.
It is unlikely that the monkeypox virus infections will grow into a pandemic but its outbreak must be taken seriously.