Amid a global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that devastated the world, the world finds itself facing another health crisis. On Saturday, 23 July 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO), officially declared the monkeypox outbreak a world public health emergency. The bold decision by the WHO enables it and affected countries to seize measures to halt its spread. Read on to learn about Monkeypox and everything you need to know the viral outbreak.
Monkeypox has for the past three years grown steadily in Africa and across the globe. In their public statement, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that almost 17 000 Monkeypox cases had been recorded, almost 80 fatalities in 75 countries in 2022. The virus is continually spreading and this has garnered the world’s attention.
What Is Monkeypox?
The Monkeypox virus forms part of the group of viruses that causes smallpox, the variola virus. It is a rare disease resulting from infection of the Monkeypox virus and is considered a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family. It has similar symptoms to those found in smallpox patients. However, Monkeypox is a mild infection and is not often fatal.
The source of the virus is yet to be determined, but it has been discovered that African rodents and non-human primates harbor the Monkeypox virus and subsequently infect humans.
How Monkeypox Spreads
Monkeypox is known as a ‘viral zoonosis’. This means it gets transmitted to humans from animals. This occurs when there has been direct contact with the blood and fluids of an infected animal. These include tree squirrels, rope squirrels, dormice, Gambian pouched rats, and different monkey species.
It can also spread to humans via close contact with an infected person or by touching contaminated materials. Between humans, it is spread through bodily fluids, lesions, and respiratory droplets. Studies have found this transmission to also occur from mother-to-fetus and during and after birth.
There are ongoing studies to better understand the risk associated with the spread of Monkeypox through sexual transmission.
Signs and Symptoms of Monkeypox
The period between infection and the onset of symptoms (incubation period) is between 6-13 days. This can also range from 5-21 days. Experts have divided the infection into distinct periods, each with its own set of symptoms:
- Lasts between 0-5 days
- Lack of energy
- Muscle aches
- Back pains and headaches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin erupts between 1-3 after signs of fever
- Rash concentrated on face, palms, and soles of the feet in majority of cases
- Rash changes from lesions to slightly raised lesions, to those filled with a clear fluid. These progress to lesions with a yellowish appearance which then forms a crust, dries up and falls off.
- Appearance of several or thousands of lesions
The WHO adds that these symptoms can last between 2-4 weeks. Individuals with compromised immune systems may experience worse outcomes of the disease. Additional complications that can arise from Monkeypox include loss of vision, sepsis, encephalitis, and bronchopneumonia.
Prevention Measures for Monkeypox
The prevention strategy against Monkeypox is to increase people’s awareness of the various risk factors and steps on what they can do to reduce their exposure. Medical experts and scientific studies are underway to determine if vaccination is the best measure against this disease and to control its spread.
Minimise human-to-human transmission
Close contact with an infected individual is the most common way the virus is spread. Healthcare workers and their family members are at a greater risk of infection. This is due to the proximity with which they care for infected patients. It’s advised that those who have been vaccinated for smallpox and are well-trained to work with sample care for infected patients.
Reduce of animal-to-human transmission
The zoonotic transmission of the virus can be significantly reduced by ensuring all meat parts and food are thoroughly cooked. Additionally, we can reduce contact with sick or dead animals and their meat and blood by wearing protective clothing or being mindful of any unprotected contact with these parts.
- Restrict animal trade
It’s important to note that certain countries have put measures in place to restrict the rodent and non-primate imports. Further regulations include isolating infected, or potentially infected animals from other animals and treating them with extra care for any Monkeypox signs and symptoms for up to 30 days.
Currently, there is no specific treatment for Monkeypox. However, due to its similarity to smallpox, its drugs and vaccines can be used to treat the current infections. Research has revealed that those previously vaccinated against smallpox will experience milder Monkeypox symptoms. However, newer vaccines, the attenuated vaccinia virus, was modified and approved for Monkeypox in 2019.
Further treatment includes care to alleviate the symptoms, control any complications and prevent long-term effects from the virus. Infected patients should also increase their fluid and food intake to maintain a strong immune system and high nutritional status.
Alison’s Response to Monkeypox
Education and awareness about infections, prevention and control remain the key elements to combat any virus we are faced with. Alison has a free course, Monkeypox, that answers all the questions about the virus and teaches you how you can protect yourself and others against the outbreak.