Smallpox is the only disease we have ever succeeded in completely eradicating in man; it has not existed in the world since 1980. But its close relative, the monkeypox, is still around. Monkeypox is not as dangerous as smallpox, but a few recent outbreaks have public health officials worried.
In recent weeks there have been 23 suspected cases in Spain, all in or near Madrid. There are 15 suspected cases and five confirmed cases in Portugal and seven in the UK Two cases cropped todyes in the United States. The US CDC is concerning.
This is because monkeypox is generally rare outside of the tropical rainforest areas of Africa. But trends in recent cases suggest the virus is more transmissible than in past epidemics. For example, the UK cases include two groups of people who were not in contact with each other, and only one involves someone who recently traveled to an area where monkeypox is endemic. It’s too early to tell if there’s pandemic potential here, but the trend shows some of the red flags that have health officials worried.
How serious is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is not as deadly as smallpox, but it is still dangerous. Mortality rates vary from 0% to 11%, according to the World Health Organization. The better medical care you can access, the better your chances of recovery.
Monkeypox particularly strikes children. People over 50 are less likely to get it, because they were alive during the smallpox eradication campaign. Vaccination against smallpox was common decades ago; if you’re young enough not to have a smallpox vaccine scar on your arm, your parents or grandparents probably did.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
With an incubation period of 5 to 21 days, you won’t know right away if you’ve been infected. Once symptoms begin, there is an “invasion phase,” sustainable about the first five days, where you may have fever, muscle aches, fatigue, severe headaches, and swollen lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes are one of the big differences between monkeypox and other infections such as chickenpox.
Next comes the eruption: You will have small lesions that start out flat and then lift up, with fluid and then pus inside. These appear most often on the face (in 95% of cases) and on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet (in 75% of cases). Other similar diseases usually do not have lesions on the palms of the hands; it’s a monkeypox special.
In total, the disease lasts from two to four weeks, then you recover.
Is there a treatment or vaccine for monkeypox?
There is no specific treatment or medication for someone with monkeypox. Treatment is “supportive care” which can include things like keeping skin lesions clean, making sure your airways are clear, and giving medicine to manage fever and secondary infections.
Here’s the good news: we To do have a vaccine. The smallpox vaccine, which is still available, appears to be effective against monkeypox.
How is monkeypox transmitted?
First, a fun fact: IIt’s usually not monkeys. Monkeypox is named after an outbreak that occurred in monkeys, but scientists don’t know which animal or animals are most common. carry the virus. Rodents are likely involved, and primates like monkeys and humans are also susceptible.
The virus is transmitted, according to the WHO, by “contact with lesions, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding. It is suspected that one of the clusters of cases in the UK could be from sexual transmission.
Usually, the virus does not spread very well from person to person. the WHO reports that the longest identified transmission channel involved six people. But if the latest outbreaks are more communicable than before, that could change. Masks can help, as respiratory droplets are one of the means of transmission (and unlike COVID, monkeypox is thought to be propagated by only large droplets, and not aerosols).
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