A person looks at a computer screen showing the monkeypox vaccine.

What is monkeypox and why is the WHO renaming the virus?

The Worth Health Organization (WHO) will hold an emergency meeting to decide whether the monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.

This is the agency’s highest warning level, which currently only applies to the COVID-19 pandemic and polio.

Scientists are scrambling to understand what is driving the current outbreak, its origins, and whether anything about the virus has changed.

What is monkey pox?

Monkeypox is a virus similar to smallpox, but less serious.

It was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys, which gave the disease its name.

The first case of monkeypox in a human was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monkeypox mainly occurs in West and Central Africa and so far has very rarely spread elsewhere.

There are two known clades – subtypes – of monkeypox:

  • West Africa (WA)
  • Congo Basin (BC)

The WHO says the CB clade appears to be more severe and has higher mortality rates.

Why is the WHO renaming it?

The WHO says it is working with experts to officially rename monkeypox amid concerns about stigma and racism around the name of the virus.

The most recent cases of monkeypox have disproportionately involved gay and bisexual men.

There has already been a homophobic backlash against the LGBT community in some areas.

It is feared that the discrimination caused by this virus is similar to the HIV epidemic of the 1980s.

The new name has not been announced.

There are more than 1,900 cases of monkeypox in countries where the virus is not endemic.(Provided: CDC via Reuters)

What are the symptoms?

A person can develop symptoms of monkeypox between five and 21 days after being infected.

The WHO says the symptoms of monkeypox are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Back ache
  • Muscle aches
  • Lack of energy
  • A rash that turns into watery or pus-filled lesions

Symptoms of monkeypox usually last two to four weeks.

Similar to other pock diseases like chicken pox and cowpox, monkey pox can leave permanent scars.

How did you get it?

The WHO states that monkeypox is transmitted through close contact with an infected person.

It can also be transmitted through infected particles on items such as bedding or towels.

Last week, scientists detected viral DNA in the semen of a handful of monkeypox patients in Italy and Germany.

The WHO is reviewing these reports and investigating the possibility that the disease could be sexually transmitted.

A woman is holding a labeled mockup bottle "Monkey pox vaccine"
Several countries have ordered doses of smallpox vaccine to deal with the monkeypox outbreak.(Reuters: Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Where are the cases?

More than 1,900 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 30 countries where the virus is not endemic.

The WHO says the “sudden and unexpected” appearance in several areas suggests there may have been “undetected transmission for several weeks or longer”.

The majority of monkeypox cases are in Europe, with the highest numbers reported in the UK, Spain, Portugal and Germany.

There are also cases in the Middle East, Israel, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, United States, Canada and parts of South America.

Australia’s first case was reported on May 20 and there were eight cases as of June 10.

This year, more than 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported in Africa, including 59 confirmed cases and 79 deaths.

what is the treatement?

There is currently no specific treatment for monkeypox.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States say that antivirals developed to treat smallpox could prove beneficial.

Several countries have prescribed doses of smallpox vaccinewhich has been approved for use against monkeypox.

Smallpox is the only infectious disease to have been eliminated through a global vaccination and surveillance program.

It was declared “eradicated” by the WHO in 1980, with the last known case reported in 1977.

with Reuters

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