The rare monkey pox virus, mostly confined to Central and West Africa, has spread in unusual ways this year, and among populations that have not been vulnerable in the past.
But while the broadcasts have raised some alarm among infectious disease officials and experts, and while a Covid-weary world is on high alert for new outbreaks, there are several reasons why monkey pox should not be treated with the same level of care as it coronavirus.
Here is something to know about monkeypox and the risks it poses.
What is monkeypox?
Monkey pox is a virus endemic to parts of Central and West Africa. It is a more benign version of smallpox.
It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are the symptoms?
Monkeypox creates a rash that begins with flat red marks that are raised and filled with pus. Infected people will also have fever and body aches.
Symptoms typically appear within six to 13 days, but can last up to three weeks after exposure. They can last for two to four weeks, with severe cases occurring more frequently among children, according to the World Health Organization.
The CDC says there is “no proven, safe treatment” for monkey pox, but notes that, to control an outbreak in the United States, pox vaccines and other treatments can be used.
How contagious is it?
Usually it does not lead to major outbreaks – in most years there are only a handful of cases outside Africa, if there is one. The most serious outbreak in the United States occurred in 2003, when dozens of cases were linked to exposure to infected prairie dogs and other pets. It was the first time there was an outbreak of monkey pox outside Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
Within Africa, 11 countries have reported cases since 1970, when the first human case was identified in a 9-year-old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nigeria has experienced a major outbreak, with more than 500 suspected cases and 200 confirmed cases since 2017, the WHO said.
The virus can spread through body fluids, skin contact and respiratory drops. The majority of cases this year have been in young men, many of whom even identified themselves as men having sex with men.
“Most cases presented with lesions on the genitals or peri-genital area, indicating that transmission is likely to occur during close physical contact during sexual activity,” the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said on Friday.
How many cases have there been this year, and where have they been?
There have been 38 cases worldwide this year as of Thursday, including 37 with no history of travel to endemic countries, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Britain reported 11 additional cases on Friday.
In the United States, the first case of 2022 was diagnosed Wednesday in Massachusetts. The man had recently traveled to Canada, which had two cases this year. New York City health authorities announced Thursday that they are investigating a possible case.
Europe has been hit much harder. As of Thursday, Portugal had reported 17 cases, Spain has seven, Belgium has two, and France, Italy and Sweden have each had one.
Britain had reported nine cases as of Thursday, but British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Friday that the number had risen to 20. The WHO said on Thursday that the country’s infections had increased locally, but “the extent of local transmission is up” this stage is unclear and there is the possibility of identifying further cases. “
None of the infected people died, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
How is the current epidemic different?
This is the first time that chains of transmission in Europe have been reported without links to West or Central Africa, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The agency also said that this year’s cases included the first to be reported among men who have sex with men.
Should I worry?
The chance of the virus spreading during sexual contact is high, but the risk of transmission of other forms of close contact is low, said the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
The symptoms are typically mild, and most people recover within weeks, but the virus has had a death rate of about 3.3 percent in Nigeria, with children, young adults and immunocompromised people most susceptible.