After the terror that Covid-19 instilled in every nook and cranny of the world, a new virus outbreak was witnessed in several countries; raising eyebrows! “Monkeypox” has become the current nightmare and many concerns are being raised: What is monkeypox? Are we on the verge of a new pandemic? What are the signs and treatments of this virus? The questions are endless, and fear has knocked on every door, but is it really worth the fuss?
However, when people get a better picture and knowledge about this virus, their minds will be set at ease.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a disease caused by the infection with monkeypox virus. In fact, this virus is not new. It goes back to 1958 when the monkeys that were held captive for research started showing signs of a pox disease. The first recorded case among humans was in 1970, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In May 2022, monkeypox set foot in different non-endemic countries including the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, United States, Canada, and Australia; which might be a bit alarming.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of monkeypox are similar but less severe than the symptoms of smallpox. The main difference is that, unlike smallpox, monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell. Hence, fever, muscle aches, headaches, backaches, tiredness, and stomachaches that may last for a couple of days are the early signs of monkeypox. After approximately 1-3 days of developing a fever, the patient develops a rash on the face which then spreads to different body parts. The rash then forms a scab which then falls off. The incubation period of monkeypox ranges from 6 to 13 days, but it can sometimes range from 5 to 21 days.
How do you catch it?
Ironically and despite its name, monkeypox is rarely transmitted from infected monkeys. Rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels are the major carriers of this disease. In fact, monkeypox transmission can either be human-to-human or animal-to-human. Just like most diseases, human-to-human transmission occurs when there is close direct contact with the person carrying the disease. It can enter the body through broken skin, respiratory tract, or the mucous membrane. While animal-to-human transmission can be caused by a bite, scratch, and bushmeat consumption. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with the bedding and clothing of the infected animal/ person.
Is it curable?
Until now, there is no proven treatment for monkeypox by WHO. However, studies have shown that vaccines used against smallpox have been 85% effective against monkeypox. Hence, since smallpox and monkeypox belong to the same group of viruses, people who are vaccinated against smallpox are on the safe side.
How do you prevent it?
Hygiene and social distancing are the keys. You have to avoid direct contact with sick or dead animals, especially in areas where monkeypox is common. Moreover, infected patients should be isolated, and make sure to use your personal protective equipment (PPE) while caring for them. Furthermore, you have to stay away from materials that have been in contact with sick people or animals. Good hygiene is a must! Especially after contact with an infected animal or human. Additionally, make sure to cook thoroughly all food containing animal meat or parts and avoid eating bushmeat.
Are we on the verge of a new pandemic?
After everything Covid-19 put people through, they are terrified to relive a new pandemic. But how worried should they be?
In fact, most scientists believe that the current outbreak of monkeypox is unlikely to cause another pandemic. Luckily, the virus is not new. Many kinds of research have already been conducted focusing on this matter, and experts have a good understanding of its structure and replication process. Moreover, unlike smallpox, monkeypox is less contagious and causes mild illness. The fatality rate of monkeypox historically ranged from 0 to 11 % whereas the death rate of smallpox reached 30%.
However, the unusual detection of cases in countries where monkeypox rarely occurs caught experts by surprise. It left them wondering if the virus has mutated to be more contagious, especially since many cases are not linked to Western and Central Africa.