This viral disease is different from Covid, but it’s something to keep an eye on.Here’s what the experts are thinking right now.
Health officials are tracking more than 100 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox in countries where the disease does not normally occur, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United States and America.
On Sunday, President Biden addressed these highly unusual cases, saying “in the sense that if it spreads it would be a consequence, it’s a concern.” In the wake of a pandemic, news of the global spread of a new virus could cause panic, but health experts say monkeypox is unlikely to cause a situation similar to the coronavirus, even if more cases are discovered.”As surveillance expands, we do expect to see more cases. But we need to put it in context because it’s not Covid,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 technical lead, was at the scene on Monday said in the Q&A.
Monkeypox isn’t a new virus, and it spreads differently than coronaviruses, so we asked experts to better understand the pathogen — and how the disease it causes is different from Covid-19.
People usually get monkeypox through close contact with an infected animal.It can be caused by animal bites, scratches, bodily fluids, feces or eating undercooked meat, said Alan Carlin, a Georgetown University researcher who studies zoonotic diseases transmitted from animals to humans.
Although it was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958, from which it got its name, scientists believe that rodents are the main carriers of monkeypox in the wild.It is predominantly found in Central and West Africa, especially near tropical rainforests – rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian kangaroos and dormouse have all been identified as potential carriers.
“The virus may have been circulating in these animals for a long time,” Dr Carlin said.”And for the most part, it’s been present in animal populations.”
The first human case of monkeypox was identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970.Since then, the virus has periodically caused small outbreaks, although most cases have been limited to a few hundred cases in 11 African countries.
A small number of cases have spread to other continents, brought by travelers, or imported exotic animals that spread the virus to pets and then to their owners.
But human-to-human transmission of monkeypox virus is very rare, Dr. Van Kerkhove said.”Transmission does happen through close physical contact, skin-to-skin contact. So in that sense, it’s completely different from Covid.”
According to the World Health Organization, the virus can also be spread by touching or sharing infected items, such as clothing and bedding, or through respiratory droplets from sneezing or coughing.
This may sound very familiar, because early in the pandemic, many experts said there was little human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus other than respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces.Later studies have shown that the coronavirus can be transmitted by much smaller particles called aerosols and can travel over distances of more than six feet.But that doesn’t mean the same goes for monkeypox, says Luis Sigal, a pox virus expert at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.Coronaviruses are tiny, single-stranded RNA viruses that may help spread through the air.However, Dr Siegel said the monkeypox virus is made up of double-stranded DNA, which means the virus itself is larger and heavier and cannot travel that far.
Other routes of monkeypox transmission include transmission from the mother to the fetus through the placenta or during close contact during and after birth.
Most of the cases this year have occurred in young men, many of whom describe themselves as men who have sex with men, but experts are wary of claims that monkeypox is transmitted through semen or other bodily fluids exchanged during sex.Instead, exposure to infected lesions during sexual intercourse may be a more plausible route.”It’s not a homosexual disease because some people on social media are trying to label it,” Dr Andy Searle, adviser to the WHO’s HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections program, said in a question-and-answer session on Monday.”Anyone can contract monkeypox through close contact.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox is in the same family of viruses as smallpox, but is usually much milder.On average, symptoms appear within 6 to 13 days of exposure, but it can take up to three weeks.People who are sick often experience fever, headache, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and general malaise.
About one to three days after a fever, most people also develop a painful rash that is characteristic of poxviruses.It starts as a flat red mark that becomes raised and filled with pus over the next 5 to 7 days.The rash can start on the patient’s face, hands, feet, inside the mouth or on the genitals and then develop to other parts of the body.(While chickenpox causes a similar-looking rash, it’s not a true pox virus, but rather is caused by an unrelated varicella-zoster virus).
Once a person’s pustules scab over, within two to four weeks, they are no longer contagious, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Group at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
Children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may have more severe cases, but monkeypox is rarely fatal.While a strain found in Central Africa can kill up to 10 percent of those infected, the virus currently circulating is estimated to have a fatality rate of less than 1 percent.
The easily identifiable rash of monkeypox and its early symptoms may be considered beneficial.”One of the most challenging things about Covid is that it can spread asymptomatically or asymptomatically by people who don’t know they’re infected,” Dr Rasmussen said.”But with monkeypox, there doesn’t seem to be any presymptomatic transmission.”
Still, as the recent outbreak of cases has shown, there are plenty of opportunities for monkeypox to spread during the first few days of infection, when symptoms are not specific, Dr. Rasmussen said.
What is monkeypox?Monkeypox is a virus endemic in parts of Central and West Africa.It is a more benign form of smallpox.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was discovered in 1958 during an outbreak of monkeys for research.
What are the symptoms?Monkeypox produces a rash that starts as a flat red mark, then rises and fills with pus.Infected people may also have fever and body aches.Symptoms usually appear within 6 to 13 days, but can take up to three weeks after exposure and can last two to four weeks.Smallpox vaccines and other treatments could be used to control the outbreak, health officials said.
How contagious is it?The virus is spread through body fluids, skin contact and respiratory droplets.Usually it doesn’t lead to large outbreaks, although it has spread in an unusual way this year and among people who were not vulnerable in the past.
How many cases are there this year?As of May 23, there have been more than 100 confirmed cases in 14 countries outside Africa, and dozens more are under investigation.The first U.S. case was confirmed in Massachusetts, and New York is investigating a possible case.
Should I be worried?The potential for transmission of the virus during sexual contact is high, but the risk of transmission by other means is low.Most people have mild symptoms and recover within weeks, but the virus can be fatal in a small number of cases.
Is monkeypox similar to the new coronavirus?Health experts say monkeypox is unlikely to cause a coronavirus-like condition, which can be spread through aerosols, while monkeypox transmission occurs through close physical contact.
The good news is that there is currently no evidence that monkeypox viruses have evolved or become more contagious.Compared with RNA viruses, DNA viruses like monkeypox are generally very stable and evolve very slowly, Dr. Sigal said.Scientists are sequencing the virus in recent cases to check for potential mutations and will soon know if there has been a change in infectivity, severity or other characteristics, he said.”But my expectation is they won’t be any different.”
Still, experts have some explanations for the recent increase in monkeypox cases.Research shows that in recent decades, the incidence of humans contracting the virus from contact with animals — also known as zoonotic spillovers — has become more common.Growing urbanization and deforestation means more contact between humans and wildlife.Some animals that carry zoonotic viruses, such as bats and rodents, have actually become more abundant, while others have expanded or adapted their habitats due to urban development and climate change.
“There are more opportunities for relatively rare pathogens to enter new communities, find new hosts and travel to new places,” Dr Rasmussen said.
While the pandemic has calmed down for now, people are also traveling more often and to more places than they did a decade ago.While many new monkeypox cases are puzzling because patients have no direct travel history to endemic countries in Africa, epidemiologists may uncover indirect travel links in the coming weeks as they race to complete contact tracing.
“Today, the main risk people face when it comes to the virus remains Covid,” Dr Rasmussen said.”The good news is that many of the same measures that can reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19 — social distancing, wearing masks in public, good hand hygiene and surface disinfection — will also reduce your risk of monkeypox.”
Treatment of monkeypox usually involves symptom management if you are sick.Two antiviral drugs — cidofovir and tecovir — and an intravenous antibody treatment originally developed for smallpox can also be used to treat monkeypox, although they have only been studied in laboratory and animal models.
There’s also a vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019 for people 18 and older that protects against smallpox and monkeypox.But health officials stopped routinely vaccinating Americans against smallpox in 1972, when the disease was eradicated in the United States, and the stockpiling of smallpox vaccines and treatments is now largely for national security purposes.
“The sporadic monkeypox outbreaks that have occurred in the past are not sufficient to warrant restarting the smallpox vaccination program,” Dr Rasmussen said.She said health officials in the U.S. and other countries may consider using some stockpiled vaccines in a “ring vaccination” strategy to prevent the spread of monkeypox from patients to their health care providers and close contacts.
The CDC urges people to contact their healthcare provider if you have a new rash or are concerned about monkeypox.The agency has asked doctors to be vigilant for obvious signs of a rash and said potential monkeypox cases should be isolated and flagged.Nor should physicians limit their concerns to men who identify as gay or bisexual, or patients who have recently traveled to Central or West African countries.
“It’s hard to say when it will be contained, or how easy it will be,” Dr Rasmussen said. “But we have the pharmacological tools, combined with the classic isolation and quarantine procedures that have helped contain monkeypox outbreaks in the past. We can Include it again. The point is to find all cases.”
Post time: May-24-2022