And then they were three. That’s three reported cases of monkeypox in a week in London. And three more than you usually see in a year in England. The first case was confirmed about a week ago, for which I covered Forbes May 8. And on Friday May 13, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed two more cases of this rare viral illness caused by the monkeypox virus. These last two cases seem unrelated to the first case but are closely related to each other, being from the same household. One is currently hospitalized in the Infectious Diseases Expert Unit at St Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, while the other is in home isolation.
Obviously, the announcement of two new cases of monkeypox shouldn’t be followed by words like “great” or “cool.” But that shouldn’t be followed by panicking arm flapping. UKHSA’s latest announcement quoted Colin Brown, MB, Ch.B., MSc., UKHSA’s Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections, as saying: “We have confirmed 2 new cases of monkeypox in England which are not linked in the case announced in May. 7. Although investigations are ongoing to determine the source of infection, it is important to emphasize that it does not spread easily between people and requires close personal contact with a symptomatic infected person. Brown also emphasized (or underlined with an “s”) that “the overall risk to the general public remains very low.”
Although the risk to the general public may be very low, the UKHSA is nevertheless working with the NHS to identify anyone else who may have come into close contact with these two new cases. It will be a case of monkeypox see, monkeypox do, as public health officials attempt to quickly quarantine or isolate anyone who may have caught the virus. It is considered quarantine when a person may have been exposed to the virus and isolation when the diagnosis of monkeypox is confirmed.
The virus, which is a double-stranded DNA virus from Orthopoxvirus kind in the Poxviride family, is not as contagious as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). You can catch the monkeypox virus in several different ways. One is to come into direct contact with the blood, body fluids or lesions of animals infected with the virus. Animals that most often carry the virus are rope squirrels, tree squirrels, poached rats in Gambia, dormice and monkeys in some countries in Africa. So if you notice that many of your friends appear to be African squirrels and have rashes or bumps, especially those filled with fluid or pus, you might want to keep your distance and tell them that the next rave has been postponed. Although it is not entirely clear which animals may serve as a natural reservoir of monkeypox virus, rodents are the prime candidate. Another possible way to catch the virus is to eat meat from infected animals that has not been thoroughly cooked. So you might want to pass on the rope squirrel casserole.
You can also catch the virus from other humans who have been infected. This can happen when you inhale larger respiratory droplets that are coughed, sneezed or exhaled by an infected person. Such transmission generally requires more prolonged face-to-face contact. This is yet another reason not to be a big talker.
Another mode of transmission is by touching the skin lesions of a person with monkeypox or objects contaminated with the virus. If you are a fetus and able to read this article, one last way to catch the virus is if your mother is infected, as the virus can cross the placenta and lead to congenital monkeypox.
The disease usually presents in two phases. The first is the so-called flood period which can consist of zero to five days of more generalized symptoms such as fevers, chills, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, back pain and swollen lymph nodes. The second period is the rash phase where rashes and lesions appear that may look somewhat like chickenpox or smallpox. These rashes progress through the bumpy, then fluid-filled, then pus-filled stages, eventually crusting over and falling off your body. While most people survive the infection after two to four weeks of symptoms, some cases of monkeypox can be more severe and even lead to death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)the monkeypox case fatality rate ranged from zero to 11%, with young children being more likely to die.
Although monkeypox is not as dangerous as smallpox, it is also not like the common cold. This is why public health officials take even a single case of monkeypox very seriously. Don’t pretend you have monkeypox to get out of work or a date. If you tell your boss or your date that you have “a touch of monkeypox”, they may end up calling the authorities about you so that you are placed in solitary confinement. Rather than making an excuse, it’s usually better to be more direct and tell the person that you have tickets to the next Drake concert or that you prefer people who bathe regularly.
The UKHSA did not say how these two new cases could have caught the virus. In fact, the ad didn’t give any more details about these people besides strongly implying that they were humans. To have three cases of monkeypox in England in such a short time is rather unusual. Apart from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, cases of monkeypox were very rare. Again, it is highly unlikely that the UK will experience a much wider spread of monkeypox from these three cases. You probably don’t need to take any special precautions other than washing your hands thoroughly regularly and resisting the urge to touch other people’s skin lesions. Oh, and if someone tells you he or she has monkeypox, don’t do monkeypox. Instead, take it seriously and make sure public health authorities are notified.
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