What is Monkeypox?
As the name seems to suggest, monkeypox is a virus but does not come from monkeys. Monkeypox is a very rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. Monkeypox is a zoonotic virus, which transmits disease from animals to humans. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 after two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, and that is how the name ‘monkeypox’ came about.
The very first case of monkeypox was also recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) at a time when there was intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Ever since monkeypox has been reported in other central and western African countries. Since May 2022, so many countries in Europe, as well as Australia and the U.S have been reporting an increasing number of monkeypox cases.
Cases in the U.S are however rare and associated with international travel from places where the disease is more common. Currently, there are over 90 confirmed cases and around 28 suspected cases of monkeypox in a dozen countries, this is according to World Health Organization.
Causes of Monkeypox
There are a number of ways through which you can get infected with monkeypox and they include the following:
-Monkeypox can be spread when you come into close contact with a person or animal infected with the virus. Animal-to-person transmission mainly occurs through broken skin like scratches or bites.
-The other way is through direct contact with an infected animal’s blood, pox lesions, or bodily fluids.
-Even though less common, monkeypox can spread from person to person. This occurs when you come in contact with virus particles from another person. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus is easily spread through airborne droplets.
This also requires face-to-face contact, but then you can breathe in the tiny droplets from someone else i.e. respiratory droplets, or get them in your nose or eyes.
-You can also directly get it from touching the lesions on an infected person.
-Coming into direct and indirect contact with materials contaminated with the virus can cause monkeypox. Such materials include bedding, clothing, and other linens used by an infected person or animal.
Symptoms of Monkeypox
Monkeypox starts with a flu-like illness, fever, headache, muscle ache, backache, chills, exhaustion, and a pronounced swelling of the lymph node. These symptoms are different from those of smallpox. The main difference between smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell while smallpox does not. After 1-3 days after the appearance of fever, a rash appears that looks like chickenpox or smallpox often begin on the face then spreads to other parts of the body and progresses over in the course of a week or two. Monkeypox has a very long incubation period between one and two weeks. The better side of this is that it gives a lot of time to track and intercede if one had contact with a relatable case for medication to begin immediately.
Is There An Age Group That Is More At Risk?
Mostly in Africa, most cases have been reported in children. This is because older people may have previously been vaccinated for smallpox. Of cases in Africa, 90% were among children under 15 years old.
How Is Monkeypox treated?
As of now, there is no specific vaccine available for monkeypox even though the smallpox vaccine has shown to offer 85 percent protection against monkeypox. Antiviral drugs may help even though they haven’t been studied as a treatment for monkeypox.
Treatment for monkeypox mainly aims to relieve symptoms. This is because the illness is usually mild and most people recover in 2 to 4 weeks.
Since monkeypox can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person, you will need to be isolated if you’re diagnosed with it.
Other than that, you may also be needed to stay in a specialist hospital so that your symptoms can be treated to prevent the infection from spreading to other people.
Monkeypox is milder than smallpox but it can still be fatal. Monkeypox causes death in up to 10% of cases.