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HealthThe Monkeypox Virus: Everything You Need to Know

The Monkeypox Virus: Everything You Need to Know

Countries worldwide are still dealing with the consequences of the COVID pandemic, and the recent cases of monkeypox have heightened public anxiety. 

The World Health Organisation, WHO says there are now 131 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 19 countries, with a further 106 suspected cases. The incident was described as “random” but “containable” by experts and was likely sparked by sexual activity at recent raves in Spain and Belgium. 

The vast bulk of these infectious diseases have been discovered in Europe, and officials worldwide are on the lookout for more cases because, for the first time, monkeypox appears to be spreading among people who have not travelled to Africa, where the disease is endemic.

On the other hand, scientists believe that the risk to the general public is low and that the recent monkeypox outbreak will not turn into a pandemic like COVID-19 because the virus isn’t as contagious as SARS-CoV-2.

The virus is not very contagious because it requires large droplets to infect people. Long-term face-to-face contact with the disease carrier is also needed, which is nearly impossible in many cases. As a result, its spread is slower than Covid-19.

Mumbai prepared a 28-bed ward for the monkeypox virus.

Monkeypox, an exotic viral infection similar to smallpox, has not been reported in Mumbai. Nevertheless, the Mumbai civic body issued a health advisory on May 23, stating that a separate 28-bed ward has been set up at the Kasturba Hospital to isolate patients with suspicion.

The ward was built under the standard protocol for any outbreak.

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, BMC, ), airport officials are screening passengers arriving from endemic and non-endemic countries where outbreaks have been reported.

“Their samples will be sent to the Pune laboratory of the NIV (National Institute of Virology).” In an advisory, the Maharashtra Health Department stated that “All Mumbai health facilities have been instructed to inform and refer any suspected case to Kasturba Hospital.”

According to reports, the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) head of virology, Dr Nivedita Gupta, stated that the country’s leading health research arm is actively observing the global surge of monkeypox virus and assessing possible options.

She stressed that the virus isn’t new. It’s been found in some African regions and has caused sporadic outbreaks.

The virus has been classified as exotic by the ICMR, and all samples are being sent to a lab in Pune for testing. Exotic viruses are those that do not exist in India.

In addition, the Ministry of Health is working on guidelines for monkeypox, which are expected to be released soon.

About Monkeypox

Monkeypox, a zoonotic viral disease, is transmitted from animal to human. Monkeypox is a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus, which belongs to the Poxviridae family. It is usually a self-limiting disease, with symptoms lasting between two and four weeks. Severe cases are possible. The case-fatality ratio has been about 3–6% in recent years.

Monkeypox has a clinical appearance like smallpox, a related orthopoxvirus infection declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. It is a less infectious and less severe form of smallpox.

The central African (Congo Basin) and the West African are the two genetic clades of the monkeypox virus. 

The Congo Basin Clade was thought to be more communicable and caused more severe diseases in the past.

Cameroon is the only country where both virus clades have been found, indicating a geographical divide between them. 

Virus transmission

Direct contact with infected animals’ blood, bodily fluids, and cutaneous or mucosal lesions can result in zoonotic (animal-to-human) transmission. Many African animals have been infected with the monkeypox virus, including tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, rope squirrels, various monkey species, and others. Though rodents are the most likely suspects, monkeypox’s natural reservoir has yet to be identified. A possible risk factor may be eating undercooked meat from infected animals. Humans who live in or near forest areas may be exposed to infected animals in an indirect or low-level manner.

Close contact with respiratory secretions, infected person’s skin lesions, or recently contaminated objects can result in human-to-human transmission. Droplet respiratory particle transmission typically necessitates extended face-to-face contact, putting household members, health workers, and other close contacts of active patients at greater risk. However, in the past few years, the longest documented chain of transmission in a community has increased from 6 to 9 person-to-person infections.

This could be due to the cessation of smallpox vaccination, which has resulted in a loss of immunity in all communities. Transmission can also occur via the placenta or close contact during and after birth. While it is well-known that close physical contact is a risk factor for transmission,

Symptoms of monkeypox

Monkeypox has an incubation period of 6 to 13 days (from infection to onset of symptoms). It can also range from 5 to 21 days.

Fever, intense headache, swelling of the lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches, and lack of energy could be seen in an infected individual during the invasion period, which lasts between 0–5 days.

The skin eruption generally starts 1–3 days after the fever appears. The rash seems to be concentrated more on the face. The disease affects the face in 95% of cases. The palms and the soles of the feet are also affected. Oral mucous membranes, genitalia, and conjunctivae, as well as the cornea, are affected. The rash looks a lot like chickenpox.

Vaccination

Monkeypox has no medical intervention or vaccine. The monkeypox virus was previously discovered to be 85% preventable with the anti-smallpox vaccine. The vaccine, however, is no longer widely available since the world was declared smallpox-free in 1980. 

Tecovirimat, an antiviral agent, initially developed for smallpox, was approved by the European Medical Association (EMA) for monkeypox in 2022. However, it isn’t widely available.

Outbreak of Monkeypox 

Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 after two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name “monkeypox.” During greater efforts to eradicate smallpox, the first human case of monkeypox was found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1970. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in Gabon, Liberia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.

In the United States of America, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa occurred in 2003, and it was associated with contact with infected pet prairie dogs. Gambian pouched rats and dormice had been imported into the country from Ghana to house these pets. This epidemic resulted in more than 70 cases of monkeypox in the United States.

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