Health authorities in Europe, North America, Israel and Australia have identified more than 100 cases of monkeypox in recent days.
Officials around the world are watching more cases because, for the first time, the rare disease appears to be spreading among people who haven’t traveled to Africa, where monkeypox is endemic. They stress, however, that the risks to the general population are low.
What is Monkey Box?
Monkeypox virus is a virus that originates in wild animals such as rodents and primates, and is sometimes transmitted to humans. It belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox.
Most human cases have been in Central and West Africa and the outbreak has been relatively limited.
The disease was first recognized by scientists in 1958 when there were two outbreaks of “smallpox-like” disease in research monkeys – hence the name monkeypox. The first known human infection was in 1970, in a young boy in a remote part of the Congo.
What caused this latest explosion?
Health officials are still investigating, but a senior advisor to the World Health Organization said this week that the main theory is that monkeypox likely spread after sexual activity in two recent deliriums in Europe.
Dr David Heymann, who chairs the WHO’s expert advisory group on infectious risks, said monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with someone who already has the disease, and that “sexual contact now appears to have amplified this transmission.”
Authorities in countries such as Britain, Spain, Germany and Portugal say most of the known cases in Europe have been among men who have sex with men, but experts stress that anyone can be infected through close contact with a sick person, their clothes or bed sheets.
Scientists say it will be difficult to determine whether the spread is driven by sex or just close contact.
Why do most current infections occur outside of Africa in MSM?
It’s unclear, but the disease is less likely to affect gay and bisexual men than anyone else.
“This could be unfortunate because (monkeypox) got into this particular community first,” said Dr Jake Dunning, an infectious disease researcher at Oxford University who is also involved in treating cases in London. “It’s just that they’re a community and by having sex with each other, that’s why it’s so common,” he said.
Other experts warn that the disease could spread more widely if measures are not taken to stop the outbreak.
“Infectious diseases don’t care about borders or social networks. Some groups may have a greater chance of exposure at the moment, but in no way the current risk of exposure to monkeypox ‘exclusive to men who have sex,” said Dr. John Brooks of the CDC. with men.
What are the symptoms and how is it treated?
Most patients with monkeypox have fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
Most people recover within two to four weeks without requiring hospitalization, and monkeypox can be fatal in up to 6% of cases and is thought to be more severe in children.
Smallpox vaccines are effective against monkeypox, and antiviral drugs are also being developed.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control recommended that all suspected cases be isolated and that the smallpox vaccine be given to high-risk contacts. The UK offers the smallpox vaccine to high-risk contacts and recommends anyone who may have been infected to isolate until they recover.
Officials said the United States has 1,000 doses of the vaccine approved to prevent monkeypox and smallpox, as well as more than 100 million doses of the older generation smallpox vaccine in the government’s inventory.
How concerned is this outbreak?
Any outbreak of an emerging virus is cause for concern, but most cases have been mild and there have been no deaths so far.
Monkeypox also requires very close contact to spread, so it is unlikely to cause large waves of disease like COVID-19, which can be transmitted through the air by asymptomatic people.
However, Britain’s Health Security Agency said it expected new infections to emerge “on a daily basis” and the WHO’s director for Europe warned that the summer season of festivals and parties could spread the disease. Many of the cases identified have no links to previous infections, indicating that the virus is already spreading widely.
On Tuesday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the outbreak was “not the beginning of a new pandemic” but that it must be contained quickly.
How many cases of MONKEYPOX are there typically?
The World Health Organization estimates that there are thousands of monkeypox infections in about a dozen African countries each year. Most of them are in Congo, which reports about 6,000 cases per year, and Nigeria, with about 3,000 cases per year.
In the past, isolated cases of monkeypox have been reported outside Africa, including in the United States and Britain. The cases have mostly been linked to travel in Africa or contact with animals from areas where the disease is more common.
In 2003, 47 people in six US states had confirmed or probable cases. They caught the virus from domestic prairie dogs that were sheltered near small mammals imported from Ghana.
Associated Press writers Mike Staub in New York and Kirsten Gresherber in Berlin contributed to this report.
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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