The infectious Monkeypox outbreak

Researcher studying the virus
Researcher studying the virus (Photo credit: Unsplash)

In recent media reports, European and American health officials have identified numerous monkeypox cases in mostly young men. But this is alarming because the disease usually occurs in Africa. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is a disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbour the virus and infect people. It is also an infectious and rare disease, that has similar symptoms to chicken pox.

While the symptoms of monkeypox are milder than chicken pox, the disease generally begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually one to two weeks but can range from less than a week to three weeks. At the early stage of the infection of the virus, the patient develops rashes, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body, notes the CDC. Also, these rashes develop in various stages before they dry up and fall off the patient’s body.

But the virus can be fatal as monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease.

The main difference between symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell while smallpox does not. The virus is transmitted from infected animals, humans, or materials contaminated with the virus. It then enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract, or eyes, nose, or mouth, documents the CDC.

Animal-to-human transmission may occur by bite or scratch, direct contact with body fluids while human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets. These droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact is required. Other human-to-human methods of transmission include direct contact with body fluids or lesion material, and indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linens.

Monkeypox cases in people have occurred outside of Africa linked to international travel or imported animals, including in the US as well as Israel, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, documents the CDC.

The CDC notes that the disease was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox’. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.

The World Health Organization says that there are thousands of monkeypox cases in some African countries every year.


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