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Monkeypox: The Latest Disease Gripping The World

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Introduction

Monkeypox, what is it? Why is this trending in news across the world? Is this another cause for concern? And, exactly what do we know about this disease? Everything we know now you will know too. Monkeypox is a viral infection caused by the Monkeypox virus that can be transmitted from animals to humans and also from infected humans to humans. It has symptoms quite similar to smallpox, albeit less severe. Primarily occurring in West and Central Africa, monkeypox was known to inflict on those who live close to tropical rainforests and has now been spreading to the urban areas. The animals that are carriers are mostly non-human primates(monkeys)and rodents. 


As of now, there are no reported cases in India. More than 100 cases have been reported in 12 countries across the world. The increase in cases reported across different countries looks alarming and WHO has emphasised monitoring and surveillance of the spread of monkeypox in India as well. 

History 

First discovered in 1958, monkeypox occurred in monkeys that were kept in the laboratory for research. In 1970, the first human contracted the virus in Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, the virus has been recorded in Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Gabon, Liberia, Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. The disease has now been spreading globally, due to international travel or imported animals.

On 21st May 2022, WHO (World Health Organisation) said that there are 92 confirmed cases reported across 12 countries like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States of America and Portugal.

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

The incubation period (time period from getting infected and showing symptoms) is generally from 7 to 14 days, however, the range is from 5 to 21 days. Symptoms of Monkeypox can be divided into two periods-

  • Invasion period: This period lasts between 0-5 days and causes-
  1. Fever with or without chills
  2. Headache
  3. Swelling of the lymph nodes
  4. Muscle ache
  5. Backache
  6. Extreme weakness

Swollen lymph nodes are the significant characteristic of monkeypox, as the initial symptoms are quite similar to chickenpox, smallpox and measles. 

  • The second period: This period starts between 1-3 days of fever and skin eruptions start to appear The rashes first occur on the face and then progress downwards. Rashes are more common on the face and hands/feet. Sometimes, genitalia, the cornea of the  eyes  and oral mucous membranes are also involved.  

Initially appearing rashes are flat red lesions(macules), then, the bumps evolve into raised lesions (papules), lesions filled with clear fluid (vesicles) lesions filled with yellow fluid (pustules). But eventually, the lesions dry up and fall off without any scarring.

Are there any tests to detect Monkeypox?

Blood tests are not very helpful in diagnosing monkeypox. The virus stays in the bloodstream for a short period, hence blood tests are not considered a very confirmatory tool. Lab tests, in which fluids from the skin lesions are tested, are more effective for diagnosis. POLYMERASE CHAIN REACTION(PCR) & NUCLEIC ACID AMPLIFICATION TEST(NAAT) is helpful to confirm the diagnosis.

 Also, biopsies may be performed. Clinical signs and symptoms are usually helpful for your doctor to diagnose the condition.

How does Monkeypox spread and can we prevent it?

A zoonotic virus, monkeypox is spread from animals to humans and then humans to other humans. The disease is transmitted through direct contact with either animals or infected humans with the following:

  • Bodily fluids
  • Blood
  • Skin lesions
  • Mucous 
  • Respiratory droplets 

While person to person spread is low, the virus enters the body through breathing, broken skin (visibly intact skin on naked eyes too) or mucous membranes. Monkeypox spreads in humans only via prolonged and direct face to face contact and large respiratory droplets.

Monkeypox can also be transmitted through:

  • Any product of infected animals
  • Bites or scratches from an infected animal
  • Contact with bedding or some other contaminated item

Prevention of monkeypox greatly depends on reducing your risk of exposure to the infection by the above-mentioned modes.

A known case of monkeypox must isolate himself/herself, the bedding, clothes and utensils of the patient should be handled separately.

Do we have a treatment for Monkey Pox?

Currently, monkeypox has no known treatment. The disease is self-limiting though and it gets better without treatment. Your doctor may advise medications for managing the symptoms and if required some antiviral medicines may be given. Good nutrition and hydration are always helpful in recovery.

According to WHO, the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective in preventing the spread of monkeypox. If you contract monkeypox after receiving the smallpox vaccine as a child, the symptoms are expected to be mild. JYNNEOS, is a vaccine that has clinically proven its efficacy in animal studies and is licensed in the US. 

Key takeaways

Currently, monkeypox cases have not been reported in India but we must be alert and aware of the symptoms it shows because monkeypox is a contagious disease and spreads from an infected person or animal to others. It is a self-limiting condition but one must consult a doctor for proper management, especially the skin eruptions which can help doctors to diagnose the disease it is better to refrain from home-based advice and adhere to doctors/professionals’ instructions as skin lesions may resemble like chickenpox, measles, scabies. Post the  Covid19  pandemic, we have become more aware and alert of globally rising pandemics and are prepared to deal with any new disease thrown our way. With surveillance, education and prevention, we can weather any storm, monkeys or small!

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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