Monkeypox: What is the disease and how serious is it?

A handful of cases of monkeypox have now been reported or are suspected in the UK, Portugal, Spain, USA and Canada.

Here’s what we know so far about monkeypox:

What is monkey pox?

Monkeypox is a usually mild virus that causes fever and a characteristic bumpy rash. There are two main strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with up to 10% mortality – and the West African strain, which has a case fatality rate of 1%. Infections in the UK have been reported as the West African strain.

“Historically, there have been very few crates exported. This has only happened eight times in the past before this year,” said Dr Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He added that it was “very unusual”.

How does a person get monkeypox?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is mainly transmitted to humans by wild animals such as rodents and primates, but human-to-human transmission is also possible.

Human-to-human transmission occurs through contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials like bedding. Eating undercooked meat and other products from infected animals is also a possible risk factor, according to the WHO.

This time the transmission baffles health experts as a number of cases in the UK have no known links to each other. The first infected person reported on May 6 had recently traveled to Nigeria.

As such, experts have warned of wider transmission if cases go unreported.

The UK Health Security Agency’s alert also pointed out that recent cases have mainly been in men who identify as gay or bisexual and advised caution.

“We are seeing transmission among men who have sex with men,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Soce Fall.

Why is it spreading and is it serious?

A likely scenario behind the increase in cases is an increase in travel as COVID restrictions are lifted.

Although it causes less severe disease, monkeypox belongs to the same family as smallpox, which was eradicated by vaccination in 1980.

The smallpox vaccine, which also protects against monkeypox, has been phased out. According to Dr. Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at UCLA in California, it was the end of these vaccination campaigns that led to an increase in cases of monkeypox.

But health experts have urged people not to panic.

“It’s not going to cause a nationwide outbreak like COVID has, but it’s a serious outbreak of a serious disease — and we need to take it seriously,” Whitworth said.

Quels autres cas ont été détectés dans le monde ?

Début mai, des cas de monkeypox ont été détectés au Royaume-Uni, en Espagne et au Portugal. Le Royaume-Uni a détecté jusqu’à présent neuf cas.

Le Portugal a identifié cinq cas et les autorités enquêtent sur plus de 20 au total.

Au Canada, les autorités enquêtent sur au moins 13 cas signalés à Montréal. Le ministère de la Santé du Québec a déclaré avoir été informé d’une personne avec un cas confirmé qui s’est rendue dans la province.

L’Espagne a également émis une alerte nationale après que 23 personnes à Madrid ont montré des symptômes.

Un homme de l’État du Massachusetts a récemment été testé positif, ce qui en fait le premier cas aux États-Unis cette année. Il avait récemment voyagé au Canada.

“Le cas ne présente aucun risque pour le public et l’individu est hospitalisé et en bon état”, a déclaré le ministère de la Santé publique du Massachusetts.

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