The rare monkeypox virus, usually confined mainly to central and western Africa, has spread in unusual ways this year, and among populations that were not vulnerable in the past.
But while the transmissions have created some concern among infectious disease officials and experts, and while a Covid-weary world is on high alert for new outbreaks, there are several reasons why smallpox monkey is not treated with the same level of concern as the coronavirus.
Here’s what to know about monkeypox and the risks it poses.
What is monkey pox?
Monkeypox is an endemic virus in parts of central and western Africa. It’s a milder version of smallpox.
It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are the symptoms?
Monkeypox creates a rash that begins as flat red marks that become raised and filled with pus. Infected people will also have fever and body aches.
Symptoms usually appear within six to 13 days, but can take up to three weeks after exposure. They can last two to four weeks, with severe cases occurring more frequently in children, according to the World Health Organization.
The CDC says there are “no proven, safe treatments” for monkeypox, but notes that in an effort to control an outbreak in the United States, smallpox vaccines and other treatments may be used.
How contagious is it?
Typically this does not lead to major outbreaks – in most years there are only a handful of cases outside of Africa, if any. The most serious outbreak in the United States occurred in 2003, when dozens of cases were linked to exposure to infected prairie dogs and other pets. It was the first time there had been an outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
In Africa, 11 countries have reported cases since 1970, when the first human case was identified in a 9-year-old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nigeria has experienced a large outbreak, with more than 500 suspected cases and 200 confirmed cases since 2017, the WHO said.
The virus can be spread through bodily fluids, skin contact, and respiratory droplets. The majority of cases this year involved young men, many of whom identified as men who have sex with men.
“Most cases had lesions on the genitals or peri-genital area, indicating that transmission is likely to occur through close physical contact during sexual activity,” the European Center for Prevention and Treatment said on Friday. disease control.
How many cases have there been this year and where have they gone?
There have been 38 cases worldwide this year as of Thursday, including 37 with no history of travel to endemic countries, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Britain reported 11 more cases on Friday.
In the United States, the first case of 2022 was diagnosed in Massachusetts on Wednesday. The man had recently traveled to Canada, which had two cases this year. New York City health officials announced Thursday that they are investigating a possible case.
Europe was much harder hit. As of Thursday, Portugal had reported 17 cases, Spain had seven, Belgium had two and France, Italy and Sweden each had one.
Britain had reported nine cases on Thursday, but Sajid Javid, Britain’s health secretary, said on Friday the number had risen to 20. The WHO said on Thursday that the country’s infections appeared to be acquired locally, but “the The extent of local transmission is unclear at this stage and it is possible to identify other cases.
None of those infected have died, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
How is the current epidemic different?
This is the first time that chains of transmission have been reported in Europe without links to West or Central Africa, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The agency also said this year’s cases included the first to be reported among men who have sex with men.
Should I be worried?
The likelihood of the virus spreading through sexual contact is high, but the risk of transmission through other forms of close contact is low, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said.
Symptoms are usually mild and most people recover within weeks, but the virus has had a death rate of around 3.3% in Nigeria, with children, young adults and immunocompromised people being the most susceptible.