The first patient in the current outbreak arrived in the UK after a trip to Nigeria, where monkeypox is rampant. Cases are increasing among people who have never visited West or Central Africa, implying that local transmission is occurring.
The latest monkeypox outbreak has spread to 17 countries, with 110 confirmed and 205 suspected cases as of this writing. Because it’s a fast-paced story, here are the answers to some of the most pressing questions if you’ve fallen behind.
Close contact and respiratory droplets are common ways for monkeypox to spread. Another possible route has been proposed: sexual transmission (through sperm and/or vaginal fluid).
Although the virus can infect anyone, the bulk of cases in the present outbreak have been among young guys.
Fever, headaches, aching muscles, and swollen lymph nodes are early symptoms that are comparable to the flu.
A rash may emerge after the fever has subsided, first on the face and spreading to other areas of the body, most commonly the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Monkeypox is often a mild, self-limiting illness that lasts two to three weeks. However, in extreme circumstances, it can be lethal. According to the WHO, the death rate has been between 3 percent and 6 percent “in recent years.” The virus that causes monkeypox in West Africa is assumed to be milder than the virus that causes monkeypox in Central Africa.
Immunocompromised people, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, and children are more vulnerable to monkeypox. In the current international outbreak of monkeypox, there have been no deaths, but one youngster in the United Kingdom is in intensive care.
Monkeypox was first found in Denmark in 1958 in laboratory monkeys (macaques), hence the name. Monkeys, on the other hand, do not appear to be the virus’s natural host. Rats, mice, and squirrels are particularly susceptible. The first human case was detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s.
Because they are both orthopoxviruses, monkeypox is linked to smallpox, but not to chickenpox. Chickenpox is caused by a herpes virus, not a poxvirus, despite its name. (It’s unknown how the word “chicken” came to be included in the name.) It is thus named, according to Samuel Johnson’s 1755 lexicon, because it is “of no very great hazard.” Despite this, the vesicles (small pus-filled blisters) produced by monkeypox are similar to those produced by chickenpox.
The number of cases is projected to rise dramatically over the next two to three weeks, although this is far from the start of a new epidemic. Monkeypox is not as contagious as the COVID-19-producing airborne virus SARS-CoV-2.
RNA viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, develop more quickly because they lack the ability to check their genetic code for flaws each time they multiply. Monkeypox is a DNA virus that can check for genetic flaws every time it multiplies, allowing it to mutate far more slowly.
The virus is extremely similar to the monkeypox strain that circulated in the UK, Singapore, and Israel in 2018 and 2019. According to the initial genome sequencing from the current epidemic (from a patient in Portugal), the virus is extremely similar to the monkeypox strain that circulated in the UK, Singapore, and Israel in 2018 and 2019. As a result, the current outbreak is unlikely to be the result of a virus that has been engineered to be more capable of spreading.
Swab samples from the patient are sent to a specialized laboratory in the United Kingdom that deals with uncommon illnesses, where a PCR test is used to confirm monkeypox. For unusual and imported illnesses, the UK Health Security Agency has only one laboratory.
Monkeypox can be protected by smallpox vaccines manufactured with a lab-generated vaccinia virus. The vaccination used to eradicate smallpox, on the other hand, can have catastrophic side effects, killing one in a million people.
Bavarian Nordic manufactures Imvanex, the only vaccine specifically approved for monkeypox. It uses a nonreplicating vaccinia strain that has less side effects. The US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency approved it in 2019 – but only for people over the age of 18.
The UK health minister, Sajid Javid, has stated that the government will stockpile vaccines that are effective against monkeypox. Around 5,000 doses of smallpox vaccination, with an anti-monkeypox effectiveness of around 85%, are now available in the UK.
Monkeypox is not treatable with any specific drugs. Antivirals like cidofovir and brincidofovir, on the other hand, have been found to be effective against poxviruses in animals and may also be useful in human cases of monkeypox.