Monkeypox is a viral infection that could be the next coronavirus.
Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection that is endemic in parts of the west and central Africa. It spreads chiefly through close contact, and until the recent outbreak has only rarely been seen in other parts of the world. The majority of the recent cases have been reported in Europe.
The outbreak of the disease in Europe is the latest concern among countries more so the ability to spread. Scientists are probing the ability of the disease to spread via sex.
The disease is now one of the most searched topics on Google.
US President Joe Biden has sought to play down the threat the disease poses, saying he did not see the need to institute strict quarantine measures.
Speaking, yesterday, in Tokyo, a day after he said the virus was something “to be concerned about,” Biden said, “I just don´t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19,” Associated Press reports.
Richard Pebody, who leads the high-threat pathogen team at WHO Europe, yesterday, also told Reuters WHO does not believe the outbreak of monkeypox in Europe and North America requires mass vaccinations as measures like good hygiene and safe sexual behavior will help control its spread.
The primary measures to control the outbreak are contact tracing and isolation, he added.
However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at a press briefing, yesterday, it was preparing to give monkeypox vaccines to close contacts of people infected and to deploy treatments.
This was disclosed by Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the division of high consequence pathogens and pathology at the CDC headquarters, according to AFP.
“Right now we are hoping to maximise vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it,” said McQuiston.
“Those are people who’ve had contacts with a known monkeypox patient, health care workers, very close personal contacts, and those in particular who might be at high risk for severe disease.”
As of today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said there have been 131 confirmed monkeypox cases and 106 further suspected cases since the first was reported on May 7 outside the countries where it usually spreads.
Speaking today at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, reiterated WHO’s view that it is unlikely that the virus has mutated but said that transmission may be driven by a change in human behaviour, particularly as people return to socialising as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted worldwide.
Many, but not all, of the cases have been reported in men who have sex with men, and Briand said it was particularly important to try to prevent sexual transmission.
Dr David Heymann, who formerly headed the WHO’s emergencies department, told the Associated Press that the leading theory out of many put forward to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission at raves in Europe.
“We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” said Heymann.
That marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical pattern of spread, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates.
Health officials say most of the known cases in Europe have been among men who have sex with men, but anyone can be infected through close contact with a sick person, their clothing or bedsheets. Scientists say it will be difficult to establish whether the spread is being driven by sex or merely close contact.
A top European health official, Hans Kluge, warns that cases of the rare monkeypox virus could accelerate in the coming months.
WHO also stated that the recent outbreaks reported across the US, UK, Australia, and several European countries are atypical as they are occurring in non-endemic countries.
The Monkeypox illness usually causes symptoms of fever, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Chickenpox-like rashes are also found on the hands and face.
According to WHO, the transmission usually happens due to close contact with infected animals such as rodents and monkeys and is limited between people.
The CDC said anyone can spread monkeypox through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, or shared items (such as clothing and bedding) that have been contaminated with fluids or sores of a person with monkeypox.
The US health body added that household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces.
Health experts have advised anyone at high risk of having caught monkeypox to isolate for 21 days.
Contacts are also advised to provide their details for contact tracing, forgo travel, and avoid contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women, and children under 12.
The West African strain of monkeypox, which is the one identified in the current outbreak, has a mortality rate of around 1%.