What is monkeypox? – The New York Times


 What is monkeypox?  - The New York Times

The rare monkeypox virus, which is usually confined mostly to central and west Africa, has spread in unusual ways this year and among populations not at risk in the past.

But while the transmissions have caused some concern among officials and infectious disease experts, and while a Covid-weary world is on high alert for new outbreaks, there are several reasons why monkeypox is not being treated with the same concern as the coronavirus.

Here’s what you should know about monkeypox and the risks associated with it.

Monkeypox is a virus endemic to parts of central and west Africa. It’s a harmless version of smallpox.

It was discovered in 1958 after outbreaks in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monkeypox causes a rash that begins with flat red patches that rise and fill with pus. Infected people also have fever and body aches.

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

The CDC says there is “no proven, safe treatment” for monkeypox, but notes smallpox vaccines and other treatments can be used to control an outbreak in the United States.

It typically doesn’t lead to major outbreaks – most years there are only a handful of cases, if any, outside of Africa. The most severe outbreak in the United States occurred in 2003, when dozens of cases were linked to contact with infected prairie dogs and other pets. According to the World Health Organization, it was the first time monkeypox had broken out outside of Africa.

Within 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 the Congo. Nigeria has experienced a major outbreak with more than 500 suspected cases and 200 confirmed cases since 2017, the WHO said.

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

“Most cases showed lesions on the genitals or perigital area, suggesting that transmission is likely to occur through close physical contact during sexual activity,” the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said on Friday.

There have been 38 cases worldwide this year, including 37 with no history of travel to endemic countries, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The UK reported a further 11 cases on Friday.

In the United States, the first case of 2022 was diagnosed in Massachusetts on Wednesday. The man had recently traveled to Canada, which has had two cases this year. New York City health officials said Thursday they are investigating a possible case.

Europe was hit much harder. As of Thursday, Portugal had reported 17 cases, Spain had seven, Belgium had two and France, Italy and Sweden had one each.

Britain had reported nine cases as of Thursday, but Sajid Javid, Britain’s Health Secretary, said on Friday the number had risen to 20. The WHO said Thursday that the country’s infections appear to have been acquired locally, but “the extent of local transmission is unclear at this stage and there is a possibility of additional cases being identified.”

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, none of those infected have died.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, this is the first time chains of transmission have been reported in Europe with no links to West or Central Africa. The agency also said this year’s cases were the first to be reported in men who have sex with men.

The chance of transmitting the virus 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 had a mortality rate of about 3.3 percent in Nigeria, with children, young adults and the immunocompromised being the most susceptible.

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