Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. The Orthopoxvirus genus also includes variola virus (which causes smallpox), vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine), and cowpox virus.
Monkeypox disease is geographically focused in tropical rainforest areas in the western and central African countries. However, it was in May 2022 when a confirmed new case of Monkeypox was reported in the US. The recent outbreak of this rare disease has raised concerns; Monkeypox is often a self-limited illness with a low fatality rate.
Meaning of Monkeypox
Monkeypox is one of the viral zoonosis. It means the passing of infection to humans from infected animals. While the virus is similar to what results in smallpox, it is different from the virus, which leads to COVID-19. Monkeypox is considered endemic or constantly present in the area. Monkeypox has also been reported in people worldwide as sporadic clusters, usually related to the international travel to the imported infected animals or endemic areas.
The first case of Monkeypox was named and identified in 1958 when the outbreaks of an unknown illness that causes lesions were reported in the monkey group useful for research.
Monkeypox is one contagious disease, and while most cases are zoonotic, it occurs after direct or close contact with infected animals like human-to-human transmission, primates, and rodents, as it can occur. Transmission occurs through contact with bodily fluids like face-to-face contact by respiratory droplets or fluid-filled skin lesions. You can also catch Monkeypox by contacting materials like bed sheets or clothes contaminated with the virus.
Following transmission, the virus spreads to the local lymph nodes and can then go on to infect other organs. The incubation period lasts about 1-2 weeks, after which the symptoms may develop.
Symptoms of Monkeypox include lesions, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, headache, and fever. Monkeypox lesions are similar to chickenpox. It usually starts in the throat and mouth before appearing on the skin and other body parts. The rash evolves from macules to papules. Later it goes from vesicles to pustules. After this phase, pustules begin to dry up, scab, and fall off. Once the lesions scab is over, the infected person is no longer considered infectious.
There are chances for symptoms of Monkeypox to last for about two to four weeks. However, severe cases may occur with long-lasting effects.
How serious is Monkeypox?
The recent outbreak of Monkeypox reported cases in several countries, including the US, the UK, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Israel, Canada, and Australia. The WHO, CDC, and UKHSA, among other public health organizations, monitor the situation closely.
Catching Monkeypox has been a low public health concern overall. However, the CDC has introduced a level 2 travel alert due to Monkeypox. The travel alert recommends enhanced precautions, such as avoiding close contact with notably sick people and live or dead wild animals, especially non-human primates and rodents, also known carriers of Monkeypox.
How fatal is Monkeypox?
The historical Monkeypox death rate is reported as exceeding 10%. The recent data shows mortalities to be less than 5%. Children and those with weakened immune systems may be most susceptible to the disease and its complications.
Things you must-do if you have Monkeypox
Always contact your healthcare provider with any symptoms or concerns. If you believe you are exposed or sick because of Monkeypox, limit your exposure to other people until public health officials or healthcare professionals assess and clear it. Possible human cases will be reported to the state health departments, which will go on to contact the CDC.
Be aware that if you develop a rash or have traveled to the west or central African countries (or other parts of the world) during the month before your symptoms appear. If you come into contact with someone with suspected or confirmed Monkeypox.
Monkeypox is often a self-limited infection that requires only supportive care to manage treatment and symptoms of any possible secondary bacterial inflectional that may occur. Available antivirals, like brincidofovir and cidofovir, have demonstrated efficacy against Monkeypox in animal and lab studies, but efficacy remains unknown in humans. An antiviral medication known as tecovirimat received approval FDA in 2018 for treating smallpox. However, there has been a lack of data on humans’ efficacy in treating Monkeypox.
Preventing monkeypox infection is best accomplished by avoiding contact with those known to be infected and any contaminated materials, limiting contact with both live and dead wild animals, and practicing good hand hygiene in Africa.
Vaccination against smallpox has proven approximately 85% effective in preventing Monkeypox. Those with prior smallpox vaccination who becomes infected may present with a milder form of illness. It perhaps contributes to the lower fatality rate observed in the present day. However, due to the eradication of smallpox based on the broad vaccination campaigns, the first-generation vaccines are no longer available, and smallpox vaccination is not provided widely.
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