Over 6 million people died from COVID, but just as we think we’re getting through it, is there a new virus that we need to worry about?
Monkeypox is here.
I’ve been scouring all the journal articles, websites, and analyses so that you don’t have to. Here is everything you need to know about Monkeypox. Before we get started, I should say that I am not an infectious diseases expert. I’ve just read all the stuff that’s available online and tried to make sense of it, so we can have an idea of what might be going on.
We now have cases in the UK, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. Before we always thought that human-to-human transmission was very rare for monkeypox. But does this change things?
Most of us know that we eradicated smallpox in 1970, but actually, there’s another very similar virus called monkeypox, which is from the same family of viruses, orthopoxvirus. Monkeypox was first discovered when it was found in a group of monkeys in a research lab in Denmark in 1958. But it wasn’t until 1978 that we saw the first human case of monkeypox, which was in Zaire. Since then, monkeypox has been seen in 11 African countries, including the largest documented outbreak in Nigeria in 2017.
Monkeypox wasn’t just found in Africa though.
In 2003, there were cases in the USA. These were thought to have originated from rodents that were imported from Ghana to the USA. These rodents then infected people’s pet prairie dogs. Humans then caught monkeypox from their pet prairie dogs. After that, Israel, the UK, and Singapore all had cases in 2018, and 2019, and now we’re seeing further cases.
So what are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Well, if you’ve got monkeypox, you’re going to get a fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and enlarged lymph nodes. Then a few days after the fever starts, you start to see the rash. The rash is most commonly seen on the face, on the palms of the hand, and on the soles of the feet. But the rash can also be inside the mouth, it can be on the genitalia, and it can be in the eyes as well. The rash starts as flat lesions. These lesions then become raised. And then they can become blisters, so filled with either fluid or puss. After that, the crust and scab over.
Monkeypox has a pretty long incubation period of somewhere between five and 21 days. It normally resolves without any treatment in two to four weeks.
There are two known types of monkeypox.
West African Type
The West African type and the Congo Basin type. The West African type is thought to have a fatality rate of around 1%.
Congo Basin Type
The Congo Basin type is thought to have a fatality rate of up to 10%. This fatality rate seems to be higher in children too.
We’ve always thought that transmission was mainly from animals to humans. And we’ve seen this from dogs, rodents, and squirrels, but now we’ve got cases of person-to-person transmission. What we know is monkeypox is passed on by skin lesions, respiratory droplets spread, or by touching contaminated objects like bedding.
Do we have a vaccine?
Well, we don’t currently have a vaccine that’s specifically for monkeypox. The smallpox vaccine was thought to prevent monkeypox in up to 85% of cases. Unfortunately, the smallpox vaccine is no longer available. If you had it when you were a child, it seems that we don’t yet know how this will affect your immunity. It’s possible that if you get monkeypox, you would get a milder case, but I think that’s still to be established.
The good news is though there is a 2019 vaccine that was approved and that’s for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox. It’s not yet widely available, but it looks like it’s starting to be offered for some specific groups of people. So perhaps this is what we’ll see in the future.
That’s a summary of the basics of monkeypox. Loads of great infectious diseases experts out there also Know their suggestions on this.