Monkeypox: Everything We Know So Far
In May 2022, the beginning of a new outbreak has become a degree of concern. Monkeypox virus infection is most common in children aged 5-9 years old, especially in small villages that hunt squirrels and other small mammals. The risk of monkeypox is decreasing as people are more able to eat wild animals for their protein needs. However, reports were coming from several nations that they were currently facing a monkeypox outbreak. Thus, visitors entering infected areas or communities must be given the smallpox vaccine.
Furthermore, the monkeypox outbreak in the UK causes concern among public health officials. One of the main reasons is the sharp increase in reported cases. According to the World Health Organization, more than 250 confirmed and suspected cases were reported from different countries. England has the second-highest number of confirmed cases. Similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is transmissible and infectious.
History of Monkeypox
Monkeypox belongs to the orthopoxvirus family, including variola viruses, the causative agent of smallpox. The first case of monkeypox was discovered in 1958 after two epidemics of the pox-like virus were seen in colonies of monkeys used for research. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was the first country to report monkeypox. Moreover, it is known as monkeypox because it was initially discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys held for scientific research. It was not discovered in humans until 1970.
Because the viruses are similar, the smallpox vaccination should offer cross-protection against monkeypox. A few data indicate that the smallpox vaccination is at least 85% effective against monkeypox.
This disease, transmitted primarily by wild animals to humans, has limited secondary transmission via person-toperson transmission. However, all available information indicates that human-to-human transmission can occur among those close to the affected. Large respiratory droplets appear to be the principal route for human-to-human transmission. Other ways of transmitting human-to-human infection include direct contact with bodily fluids or lesion materials and indirect contact.
Is sexual transmission of monkeypox possible?
Close physical contact can spread monkeypox from one person to the next, even through sexual contact. Although it is not yet known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal liquids, direct skin-to-skin contact can spread the virus during sexual activities.
Sometimes, monkeypox rashes can be found in the genitals or the mouth. This could lead to the transmission through sexual contact. The virus could also occur through mouth-to-skin contact if there are skin or oral lesions.
Often, sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes or syphilis, mimic monkeypox rashes. It could be why experts found many of the cases in this outbreak in men who went to sexual health clinics to get help.
Symptoms of Monkeypox
Monkeypox symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches and backaches, swelling of the lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. Then, the patient will develop a rash within a few days of the onset of fever. It is most commonly found on the skin, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. They can also occur on the lips, genitals, or eyes. Additionally, lesions will be visible on the patient's body. Some lesions are flat; others can be slightly raised. Once filled with clear, yellowish, or mixed fluid, the lesions can crust over and eventually fall off. Lesions can range from one to several thousand.
Symptoms generally last between the 2nd and 4th weeks, and then they disappear independently. Talk to your doctor if you suspect that you have monkeypox symptoms or if you are near someone with monkeypox.
How to address the symptoms?
According to World Health Organization, symptoms of monkeypox are often resolvable on their own without any need to be treated. You should let the rash dry as soon as possible and cover it with a moist dressing if necessary. Avoid touching sores around the eyes or mouth. As long as you avoid cortisone-containing products, mouth rinses and eye drops may be used. Vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) may be recommended for severe cases. A smallpox antiviral (tecovirimat), which was commercialized under the name TPOXX, was approved in January 2022 for the treatment of monkeypox.
Can a person die from monkeypox?
Most cases of monkeypox disappear within weeks. However, in certain instances, complications or death can occur. Children, newborns, and those with underlying immune deficiencies could be at greater risk of severe complications and even death from monkeypox.
Skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye infections can all be complications of severe monkeypox cases. These infections can cause vision loss. Recent reports indicate that around 3-6% of patients have died in endemic areas. This includes children and people with other health conditions.
People at Risk of Monkeypox
People with underlying immune deficiencies, babies, and children may be more susceptible to the disease. More prolonged exposure to the virus can put health workers at increased risk. Additionally, it is unlikely that younger people were vaccinated against the smallpox virus because vaccinations stopped being offered worldwide in 1980 when smallpox could not be eliminated. Individuals who have been vaccinated to prevent monkeypox should still take precautions to protect others.
Things to Avoid When Travelling
1. Close contact with sick people, such as those with skin and genital problems.
2. Contacts with dead or wild animals, small mammals such as rodents (rats/squirts), and nonhuman primates like monkeys/apes.
3. Preparing wild game meat and using products derived directly from wild animals.
4. Contact with contaminated materials that have been used by sick patients, including clothing, bedding, and materials used in healthcare environments or those that were infected with animals
Monkeypox Travel Restrictions
There are currently no travel restrictions in place due to the monkeypox disease. Hans Kluge from WHO Europe warned the public that transmissions could escalate as summer comes. Travel test is necessary to fight further transmission of the virus. Travellers who wish to enter Europe and other countries infected should undergo fit to fly tests.
How to prevent yourself from catching monkeypox?
1. You should limit your contact with suspected and confirmed infected people.
2. Encourage the infected individual to self-isolate and cover any skin lesion.
3. Wear a medical mask if necessary
4. If you are a medical worker, avoid skin-to-skin contact and use disposable gloves.
5. Regularly wash and sanitize your hands.
6. Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces
7. Use warm water and detergent when washing an infected person's clothes, towels, and utensils.
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