Oct 3, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

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Monkeypox explainer: how do you catch it and what are the risks?

The recent outbreak of monkeypox has reached 17 countries with 110 confirmed cases and a further 205 suspected cases at the time of writing. It’s a fast developing story. So if you need to stay informed, here are answers to some of the most pressing questions.

How does monkeypox spread?

The first patient in the current outbreak was from trips to Nigeria, where monkeypox is endemic, returned to Britain. However, cases are now spreading among people who have not traveled to West or Central Africa, suggesting local transmission is occurring.

Monkeypox usually spreads through close contact and airborne infection. However, sexual transmission (via semen and/or vaginal fluid) has been postulated as an additional possible route. The World Health Organization (WHO) says: “Studies are needed to better understand this risk.”

Most of the cases in the current outbreak have affected younger men, but the virus can spread to anyone.

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What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms are flu-like, e.g. B. fever and headache, aching muscles and swollen lymph nodes.

Once the fever subsides, a rash may develop, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body – most commonly the palms of hands and soles of the feet feet.

How deadly is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is usually a mild, self-limiting illness that lasts two to three weeks. However, in some cases it can lead to death. According to the WHO, the mortality rate “recently” was around 3% to 6%. The West African monkeypox virus is thought to be milder than the Central African one.

Monkeypox tends to cause more serious illness in people with compromised immune systems—such as those undergoing chemotherapy—and in children. There have been no deaths from monkeypox in the current global outbreak, but according to the Daily Telegraph, one child in the UK is in intensive care with the disease.

Why is it called monkeypox?

Monkeypox were first identified in laboratory monkeys (macaques) in Denmark in 1958, hence the name. However, monkeys do not appear to be the natural hosts of the virus. It is more common in rats, mice, and squirrels. The first human case was observed in the 1970s in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Is monkeypox related to smallpox and chickenpox?

Monkeypox is related to smallpox – they are both orthopoxviruses – but it has nothing to do with chickenpox. Despite the name, chickenpox is a herpes virus, not a smallpox virus. (How “chicken” got its name is not entirely clear. In his 1755 dictionary, Samuel Johnson surmised that it is so called because it “does not pose any very great danger”). ) caused by monkeypox is similar to that of chickenpox.

Are cases likely to continue to increase?

Cases are likely to continue to increase significantly over the next two to three weeks, but this is not another pandemic in the making. Monkeypox does not spread nearly as easily as the airborne virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

Has monkeypox evolved into a more virulent evolution?

RNA viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, do not have the ability to check their genetic code for errors with each replication, so they tend to develop faster. Monkeypox is a DNA virus that can check itself for genetic errors with each replication, so it tends to mutate much more slowly.

The first genome sequence from the current outbreak (from a patient in Portugal) suggests pointed out that the virus is very similar to the monkeypox strain that was circulating in the UK, Singapore and Israel in 2018 and 2019. Therefore, it is unlikely that the current outbreak is the result of a mutated virus that is better able to spread.

How is monkeypox diagnosed?

In the UK, swab samples will be taken from the patient at sent to a specialist laboratory that handles rare pathogens, where a PCR test is performed to confirm monkeypox. The UK Health Security Agency only has one laboratory for rare and imported pathogens.

Is there a vaccine for it?

Smallpox vaccines, which contain the laboratory-made vaccinia virus, can protect against it monkey pox. However, the vaccine used to eradicate smallpox can have serious side effects, killing about one in a million people who are vaccinated.

The only vaccine specifically approved for monkeypox, Imvanex, is made by a company called Bavarian Nordic . It uses a non-replicating form of vaccinia that causes fewer side effects. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency in 2019 – but only for use in people aged 18 and over.

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK government is stocking up on vaccines will be effective against monkeypox. The UK currently has around 5,000 doses of smallpox vaccine, which has around 85% efficacy against monkeypox.

Are there any drugs to treat it?

There are no specific drugs to treat monkeypox . However, antivirals such as cidofovir and brincidofovir have been shown to be effective against smallpoxviruses in animals and may also be effective against monkeypox infections in humans.

ByEd Feil
Professor of Microbial Evolution at The Milner Zentrum for Evolution, University of Bath