The image, created during the 1996-1997 Democratic Republic of the Congo WJ MAHY / HANDBOARDS THROUGH REUTERS THIS VALURE IS SUPPLIED BY THE THIRD BAROQUE.
CDC | Brian W. J. Mahi | Reuters
Health authorities in Europe, the United States and Australia are investigating the recent outbreak of monkeypox, a rare viral disease commonly found in Africa.
Germany on Friday announced its first case of the virus, becoming the last European country to detect the outbreak along with Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Sweden.
The U.S. and Australia this week also confirmed their first instances of experts trying to determine the root cause of the recent surge.
While some cases have been related to travel from Africa, it is believed that recent infections have spread in society, increasing the risk of a wider outbreak.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Infection and the UK Health Agency have said they are investigating a number of cases, including those who identify themselves as men who have sex with men, and have called on gays and bisexuals to be aware of any unusual rash or lesions.
In the UK alone, the incidence has doubled since the first was detected on 7 May. There are now 20 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country, although there are fears that it could be much more unnoticed.
Individuals who develop symptoms of the virus, which include rash and fever, are advised to seek medical attention before visiting any clinic.
“These recent cases, together with reports of cases across Europe, confirm our initial concerns that monkeypox may be spreading in our communities,” said Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, on Wednesday.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, part of the same family as smallpox, but usually less severe.
Commonly found in remote areas of Central and West Africa, the virus was first detected in captive monkeys in 1958. The first human case was recorded in 1970.
Smallpox reappeared in Nigeria in 2017 after four decades without a single confirmed case. As of May 2022, 450 cases of the disease have been registered in the country.
The Washington Post The Washington Post Getty Images
Since then, sporadic cases have been reported in 10 African countries, including Nigeria, where in 2017 there was the largest outbreak recorded: 172 suspects and 61 confirmed cases. Three-quarters were among men aged 21 to 40 years.
Cases outside of Africa have historically been less common and are usually related to international travel or imported animals. Previous cases have been reported in Israel, the UK, Singapore and the US, which in 2003 reported 81 cases involving meadow dogs infected with imported animals.
How to get monkeypox?
Smallpox is spread when someone comes in close contact with another person, animal or material infected with a virus.
The virus can enter the body through damaged skin, airways or through the eyes, nose and mouth.
In this 1971 handout of the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox-like injuries are shown on a child’s arm and legs in Bondou, Liberia.
CDC | Getty Images
Human-to-human transmission most often occurs through respiratory drops, although prolonged face-to-face contact is usually required. Meanwhile, transmission from animals to humans can occur through a bite or scratch.
Smallpox is not usually considered a sexually transmitted disease, although it can be transmitted during sex.
What are the symptoms?
Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain.
Patients usually develop a rash one to three days after the onset of fever, often starting from the face and spreading to other parts of the body such as the palms of the hands and feet.
The rash, which can cause severe itching, then goes through several stages before the legions appear scab and fall off.
The infection usually lasts two to four weeks and usually goes away on its own.
What is the treatment?
There are currently no proven, safe treatments for monkeypox, although most cases are mild.
People suspected of having the virus can be isolated in a negative pressure room – rooms used to isolate patients – and monitored by healthcare professionals using personal protective equipment.
The palms of a monkey patient from Lodge, a town located in the Katako-Kombe health zone, are visible during a 1997 health investigation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
CDC | Reuters
However, smallpox vaccines have proven to be largely effective in preventing the spread of the virus. Countries, including the UK and Spain, are now offering the vaccine to those who have been infected to help reduce symptoms and limit the spread.
How dangerous is it?
Cases of monkeypox can sometimes be more severe, with some deaths reported in West Africa.
However, health authorities emphasize that we are not on the verge of a serious outbreak and the risks to the population remain very low.
“Although investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection, it is important to emphasize that it does not spread between people and requires close personal contact with an infected person,” said Colin Brown, director of clinical and new infections at UKHSA. .
Health authorities in the UK, US and Canada have urged people who are experiencing new rashes or concerned about monkeypox to see their doctor.
The UKHSA added that they seek and give advice to any potentially close contacts with patients and healthcare professionals who may have been in contact with infected patients.