An extremely rare disease called monkeypox, a much less serious cousin of smallpox, is spreading all over the world. More than 250 cases have been reported in at least 16 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Experts say it is transmitted through close and prolonged contact with an infected person.
“Countries now reporting monkeypox are countries that normally don’t have monkeypox outbreaks,” Rosamund Lewis, head of the smallpox secretariat, WHO’s emergencies program, said Tuesday during a briefing. press briefing at the United Nations in Geneva.
Monkeypox is endemic near the rainforests of Central and West Africa, but is increasingly being seen near urban areas, According to the WHO.
“It’s an emerging disease. It’s emerged over the last 20 to 30 years, (so) it’s not unheard of, it’s very well described,” Lewis told reporters. “The risk to the big public therefore seems small, because we know that the main modes of transmission have been as described in the past.”
In the USA, the first case of monkeypox in 2022 was diagnosed in a patient hospitalized in Massachusetts who had recently traveled to Canada by private transportation. In 2021, two people traveling from Nigeria to the United States have been diagnosed with the disease, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention.
Cases in parts of the world other than Africa are usually linked to international travel or imported animals infected with smallpox, the CDC said.
Several reported cases of monkeypox in the UK involved people who had no known travel or contact with other peoplebut there is no cause for alarm, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said on CNN’s “New Day” program on Thursday.
“Right now we don’t want people to worry,” Murthy said. “These numbers are still low; we want (people) to be aware of (the) symptoms, and if they have any concerns, they should contact their doctor.
There is an incubation period of approximately seven to 14 days, the CDC said. The first symptoms are usually flu-like, such as fever, chills, exhaustion, headache and muscle weakness, followed by swollen lymph nodes, which help the body fight infection and disease.
“One feature that distinguishes monkeypox infection from smallpox infection is the development of swollen lymph nodes,” the CDC said.
This is followed by a generalized rash on the face and body, including inside the mouth and on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Sore, raised poxes are pearly and fluid-filled, often surrounded by red circles. The lesions eventually crust over and disappear over a period of two to three weeks, the CDC said.
In the current outbreak, there appears to be a higher number of cases causing a rash in the groin area of patients, according to the WHO and CDC.
“In some cases, during the early stages of the disease, the rash has manifested primarily in the genital and perianal area,” said Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer of the Division of HIV Prevention, on Monday. / AIDS from the CDC during a press briefing.
“In some cases it produced anal or genital lesions that resemble other diseases like herpes, chicken pox or syphilis,” he said.
A “notable fraction of cases” in the current outbreak have been seen among gay and bisexual men, “but the current risk of exposure to monkeypox is by no means exclusive to the gay and bisexual community in the United States. . Anyone, anyone, can develop [and] spread monkeypox,” Brooks said.
Overall, the risk of monkeypox is moderate for people with multiple sex partners and low for the general population, according to a rapid risk assessment report released Monday by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. .
However, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.
Close contact with an infected person is necessary for the spread of the monkeypox virus, experts say.
The infection can develop after exposure to “broken skin, mucous membranes, respiratory droplets, infected bodily fluids, or even contact with contaminated laundry,” said Neil Mabbott, personal chair in immunopathology. at the University of Edinburgh Veterinary School in Scotland, in a statement. .
“As the lesions have healed, the scabs (which may carry infectious virus) may come off as dust, which can be inhaled,” said Dr Michael Skinner, who is on the faculty of medicine in the Department of Imperial College Infectious Diseases. London, in a press release.
Transmission between people can occur through large respiratory droplets, and since these droplets typically only travel a few feet, “prolonged face-to-face contact is required,” the CDC said. This puts healthcare workers and household members who care for or live with an actively infected person at increased risk, According to the WHO.
Smallpox, which was eradicated worldwide in 1980has also spread mainly through direct and prolonged contact between people, as well as through objects contaminated with infected fluids, such as bedding or clothing.
“Patients with smallpox became contagious as soon as they developed sores, spreading the virus through droplets when coughing or sneezing. They remained contagious until their lesions cleared,” said Dr. Paritosh Prasad, director of the Highly Infectious Diseases Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
However, based on available historical information, monkeypox appears to be less contagious than smallpox, Prasad said.
“Monkeypox can be a serious infection, with mortality rates for this type of monkeypox virus having been around 1% in other outbreaks. These are often found in low-income settings with limited access to healthcare,” said Michael Head, senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton in the UK. No deaths have been reported in the current outbreak.
However, in the developed world, “it would be very unusual to see anything other than a handful of cases in an outbreak, and we won’t see (Covid)-like levels of transmission,” Head said in a statement.
According to the CDC, common household disinfectants can kill the monkeypox virus.
There are no specific drugs available to treat the symptoms of monkeypox, so “treatment is generally supportive,” Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement. .
“However, a vaccine is available that can be given to prevent the disease from developing,” Whitworth said.
In the United States, a two-dose vaccine called Jynneos is currently licensed to prevent monkeypox and can also be used against smallpox. The vaccine has been stockpiled by the US government in the event of a resurgence of the eradicated disease.
“Right now we have over 1,000 doses available and we expect that level to increase very rapidly in the coming weeks as the company provides us with more doses,” said Dr Jennifer McQuiston , Deputy Director of the High Consequence Pathogens Division. and pathology at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told reporters on a call Monday.
“We hope to maximize the distribution of vaccines to those who we know would benefit,” McQuiston said. “These are people who have been in contact with known monkeypox patients, healthcare workers, very close personal contacts and those in particular who may be at high risk of serious illness.”
Monkeypox got its name in 1958 when “two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research”. the CDC said.
However, the primary disease vector for monkeypox is still unknown, although “African rodents are suspected to play a role in transmission,” the agency said.
The first known case of monkeypox in humans was “recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified efforts to eliminate smallpox,” the CDC said. Since then, most cases have been concentrated in 11 African countries – with several outbreaks in the United States and Europe linked to travel or imports from endemic countries.
An epidemic broke out in the United States in 2003 after forty-seven people in six states – Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin – fell ill due to contact with their prairie dogs, the CDC said.
“The pets were infected after being housed near small mammals imported from Ghana,” the CDC said. “This was the first time that human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa.”
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