A handful of cases of monkeypox have now been reported or suspected in the UK, Portugal, Spain, the United States and Canada.
Here’s what we know about monkeypox so far:
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a usually mild virus that causes fever and a characteristic bumpy rash. There are two main tribes: the Congo tribe, which is more serious – with up to 10 percent mortality – and the West African tribe, which has a 1 percent mortality rate of cases. The British infections were reported as a West African strain.
“Very few cases have been exported in the past. It’s only happened eight times in the past prior to this year,” said Dr. Jimmy Whitworth, Professor of International Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He added it was “highly unusual”.
How does a person get monkeypox?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is mainly transmitted to humans from wild animals such as rodents and primates, but human-to-human transmission is also possible.
Human-to-human transmission occurs through contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding. Eating undercooked meat and other products from infected animals is also a possible risk factor, according to the WHO.
This time around, the transmission is puzzling to health experts as a number of cases in the UK have no known link to one another. The first reported infected person on May 6th had traveled to Nigeria shortly before.
Therefore, experts have warned of further transmission if cases go unreported.
The UK Health Agency’s warning also emphasized that recent cases have mostly affected men who self-identified as gay or bisexual and urged caution.
“We are seeing transmission among men who have sex with men,” said WHO Deputy Director-General Dr. Soce case.
NEWS 📣: We have discovered 2 more cases of #monkeypoxone in London and one in south-east England, bringing the total number of confirmed monkeypox cases in England since May 6 to 9, with the most recent cases occurring predominantly in gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
— UK Health Security Agency (@UKHSA) May 18, 2022
Why is it spreading and is it serious?
A likely scenario behind the increase in cases is an increase in travel as COVID restrictions are lifted.
Although it causes a less serious disease, monkeypox belongs to the same family as smallpox, which was eradicated by vaccination in 1980.
The smallpox vaccine, which also protects against monkeypox, has been phased out. according to dr Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at UCLA in California, it was the cessation of these vaccination campaigns that led to a rise in cases of monkeypox.
But health experts urged people not to panic.
“This will not cause a nationwide epidemic like COVID, but it is a serious outbreak of a serious disease – and we should take it seriously,” Whitworth said.
“The WHO not only fights #COVID-19: There is a #Ebola Eruption in 🇨🇩, an unknown #Hepatitis Impact on children around the world and #monkeypox affects a number of countries. WHO is working with national authorities to respond to these outbreaks quickly and effectively.”@DrTedros
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 17, 2022
What other cases have been detected around the world?
Cases of monkeypox were detected in Britain, Spain and Portugal in early May. Britain has so far detected nine cases.
Portugal has identified five cases and authorities are investigating more than 20 in total.
In Canada, authorities are investigating at least 13 cases reported in Montreal. Quebec’s health ministry said it had been briefed on a person with a confirmed case who traveled to the province.
Spain also issued a national alert after 23 people showed symptoms in Madrid.
A man in the state of Massachusetts recently tested positive, making it the first case in the US this year. He had recently traveled to Canada.
“The case poses no risk to the public and the individual is hospitalized and in good health,” the Massachusetts Department of Health said.