What is monkeypox and where is it spreading?

Entornointeligente.com /

An AP EX­PLAIN­ER By MARIA CHENG

 

LON­DON (AP) — Eu­ro­pean and Amer­i­can health au­thor­i­ties have iden­ti­fied a num­ber of mon­key­pox cas­es in re­cent days, most­ly in young men. It’s a sur­pris­ing out­break of a dis­ease that rarely ap­pears out­side Africa.

Health of­fi­cials around the world are keep­ing watch for more cas­es be­cause, for the first time, the dis­ease ap­pears to be spread­ing among peo­ple who didn’t trav­el to Africa. They stress, how­ev­er, that the risk to the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion is low.

 

WHAT IS MON­KEY­POX?

 

Mon­key­pox is a virus that orig­i­nates in wild an­i­mals like ro­dents and pri­mates, and oc­ca­sion­al­ly jumps to peo­ple. Most hu­man cas­es have been in cen­tral and west Africa, where the dis­ease is en­dem­ic.

The ill­ness was first iden­ti­fied by sci­en­tists in 1958 when there were two out­breaks of a «pox-like» dis­ease in re­search mon­keys — thus the name mon­key­pox. The first known hu­man in­fec­tion was in 1970, in a 9-year-old boy in a re­mote part of Con­go.

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMP­TOMS AND HOW IS IT TREAT­ED?

 

Mon­key­pox be­longs to the same virus fam­i­ly as small­pox but caus­es milder symp­toms.

Most pa­tients on­ly ex­pe­ri­ence fever, body aches, chills and fa­tigue. Peo­ple with more se­ri­ous ill­ness may de­vel­op a rash and le­sions on the face and hands that can spread to oth­er parts of the body.

The in­cu­ba­tion pe­ri­od is from about five days to three weeks. Most peo­ple re­cov­er with­in about two to four weeks with­out need­ing to be hos­pi­tal­ized.

Mon­key­pox can be fa­tal for up to one in 10 peo­ple and is thought to be more se­vere in chil­dren.

Peo­ple ex­posed to the virus are of­ten giv­en one of sev­er­al small­pox vac­cines, which have been shown to be ef­fec­tive against mon­key­pox. An­ti-vi­ral drugs are al­so be­ing de­vel­oped.

On Thurs­day, the Eu­ro­pean Cen­tre for Dis­ease Pre­ven­tion and Con­trol rec­om­mend­ed all sus­pect­ed cas­es be iso­lat­ed and that high-risk con­tacts be of­fered the small­pox vac­cine.

 

HOW MANY MON­KEY­POX CAS­ES ARE THERE TYP­I­CAL­LY?

 

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mates there are thou­sands of mon­key­pox in­fec­tions in about a dozen African coun­tries every year. Most are in Con­go, which re­ports about 6,000 cas­es an­nu­al­ly, and Nige­ria, with about 3,000 cas­es a year.

Patchy health mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems mean many in­fect­ed peo­ple are like­ly missed, ex­perts say.

Iso­lat­ed cas­es of mon­key­pox are oc­ca­sion­al­ly spot­ted out­side Africa, in­clud­ing in the U.S. and Britain. The cas­es are typ­i­cal­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with trav­el to Africa or con­tact with an­i­mals from ar­eas where the dis­ease is more com­mon.

In 2003, 47 peo­ple in six U.S. states had con­firmed or prob­a­ble cas­es. They caught the virus from pet prairie dogs that been housed near im­port­ed small mam­mals from Ghana.

 

WHAT’S DIF­FER­ENT ABOUT THESE CAS­ES?

 

It’s the first time mon­key­pox ap­pears to be spread­ing among peo­ple who didn’t trav­el to Africa. Most of the cas­es in­volve men who have had sex with men.

In Eu­rope, in­fec­tions have been re­port­ed in Britain, Italy, Por­tu­gal, Spain and Swe­den.

Britain’s Health Se­cu­ri­ty Agency said its cas­es are not all con­nect­ed, sug­gest­ing that there are mul­ti­ple chains of trans­mis­sion hap­pen­ing. The in­fec­tions in Por­tu­gal were picked up at a sex­u­al health clin­ic, where the men sought help for le­sions on their gen­i­tals.

On Wednes­day, U.S. of­fi­cials re­port­ed a case of mon­key­pox in a man who had re­cent­ly trav­eled to Cana­da. The Pub­lic Health Agency of Cana­da al­so con­firmed two cas­es re­lat­ed to that pos­i­tive test. Health of­fi­cials in Que­bec ear­li­er said they sus­pect­ed 17 cas­es in the Mon­tre­al area.

 

IS MON­KEY­POX BE­ING SPREAD THROUGH SEX?

 

It’s pos­si­ble, but it’s un­clear at the mo­ment.

Mon­key­pox has not pre­vi­ous­ly been doc­u­ment­ed to have spread through sex, but it can be trans­mit­ted through close con­tact with in­fect­ed peo­ple, their body flu­ids and their cloth­ing or bed­sheets.

Michael Skin­ner, a vi­rol­o­gist at Im­pe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don, said it’s still too ear­ly to de­ter­mine how the men in the U.K. were in­fect­ed.

«By na­ture, sex­u­al ac­tiv­i­ty in­volves in­ti­mate con­tact, which one would ex­pect to in­crease the like­li­hood of trans­mis­sion, what­ev­er a per­son’s sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and ir­re­spec­tive of the mode of trans­mis­sion,» Skin­ner said.

Fran­cois Bal­loux of Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don said mon­key­pox said sex qual­i­fies as the kind of close con­tact need­ed to trans­mit the dis­ease.

The U.K. cas­es «do not nec­es­sar­i­ly im­ply any re­cent change in the virus’ route of trans­mis­sion,» Bal­loux said.

___

Bar­ry Hat­ton in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, con­tributed to this re­port.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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