What to know about monkeypox

The rare monkeypox virus, usually confined mainly to central and western Africa, has been spreading in unusual ways this year, and among populations that were not vulnerable in the past.

President Biden has said “everyone should be worried” about the rise in cases. But while the transmissions have created some concern among infectious disease officials and experts, and while a Covid-weary world is on high alert for new outbreaks, there are several reasons why smallpox monkey is not treated with the same level of concern as the coronavirus.

There have been more than 100 confirmed cases outside of Africa in the current outbreak, and none of those infected have died. Here’s what to know about monkeypox and the risks it poses.

Monkeypox is an endemic virus in parts of central and western Africa. It’s similar to but less serious than smallpox, which is caused by a related virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, the CDC said.

Monkeypox creates a rash that begins as flat red marks that become raised and filled with pus. Infected people will also have fever and body aches.

Symptoms usually appear within six to 13 days, but can take up to three weeks after exposure. They can last two to four weeks, with severe cases occurring more frequently in children, according to the World Health Organization.

The CDC says there are “no proven, safe treatments” for monkeypox, but the Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of smallpox vaccines and antiviral treatments to control outbreaks.

Typically this does not lead to major outbreaks – in most years there are only a handful of cases outside of Africa, if any. The most serious outbreak in the United States occurred in 2003, when dozens of cases were linked to exposure to infected prairie dogs and other pets. It was the first time there had been an outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

In Africa, 11 countries have reported cases since 1970, when the first human case was identified in a 9-year-old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nigeria has experienced a large outbreak, with more than 500 suspected cases and 200 confirmed cases since 2017, the WHO said.

The virus can be spread through bodily fluids, skin contact, and respiratory droplets. The majority of cases this year involved young men, many of whom identified as men who have sex with men.

“Most cases had lesions on the genitals or peri-genital area, indicating that transmission is likely occurring through close physical contact during sexual activity,” the European Center for Prevention and Control said. illnesses in May.

The monkeypox outbreak has grown to include around 260 confirmed cases with dozens more under investigation in 21 countries.

The CDC said in late May it was tracking nine confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox in seven states, not all of which involved a history of travel to countries where the disease is endemic. That suggests there may already be some level of community transmission, agency director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters.

The first of these was diagnosed in Massachusetts on May 18 in a man who had recently traveled to Canada. Two confirmed cases have been reported among members of the same household in Salt Lake County, Utah, who had recently returned from Europe, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, citing information from CDC Public Health officials in Florida said they identified a suspected case of monkeypox in Broward County in a person who had recently traveled overseas. And New York public health officials said they tested two patients who were being investigated for possible monkeypox.

Europe was much harder hit. Portugal and Spain have reported between 20 and 30 cases each, according to the World Health Organization. In Britain, the UK Health Security Agency said it had detected 56 cases of monkeypox in England.

Fewer than five cases have been reported in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Australia also reported two cases in men who had traveled to Britain.

This is the first time that chains of transmission have been reported in Europe without links to West or Central Africa, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The agency also said this year’s cases included the first to be reported among men who have sex with men.

The likelihood of the virus spreading through sexual contact is high, but the risk of transmission through other forms of close contact is low, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said.

Symptoms are usually mild and most people recover within weeks, but the virus has had a death rate of around 3.3% in Nigeria, with children, young adults and immunocompromised people being the most susceptible.

Still, public health officials have urged people to be cautious. The CDC issued a Level 2 alert in late May, saying people should “take enhanced precautions” when traveling. The agency urged travelers to avoid close contact with sick people, eating or preparing wild game meat, and contact with clothing, bedding or other materials handled by sick people.

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