Monkeypox is a rare disease usually found in Central and West Africa. The first known case of the current monkeypox outbreak was announced in the UK on May 7 by a person who had travelled to Nigeria.
Later cases had no link to the first case, and those infected hadn’t traveled to where monkeypox is endemic.
All You Need To Know About Monkeypox
How does monkeypox spread?
Unlike COVID-19, which is highly contagious, monkeypox doesn’t usually spread easily among people. Monkeypox spreads via large respiratory droplets when people are in close contact; direct contact with skin lesions or bodily fluids; or indirect contact through contaminated clothing or bedding.
The current outbreak is mostly spreading through sex, according to the World Health Organization.
However, it is not a sexually transmitted disease. The UK Health Security Agency is investigating why a “notable proportion” of early cases were among those who self-identified as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
But as Insider’s Hilary Brueck reported, it doesn’t exclusively affect these groups and this pattern doesn’t mean it’s sexually transmitted.
Monkeypox can be mistaken for an STD, though, with some monkeypox patients presenting with genital lesions that look like STDs, such as syphilis and genital warts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most people who catch monkeypox have mild flu-like symptoms, such as fever and backache, and a rash that clears by itself within two to four weeks.
The rash starts on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body, including the genitalia. The rash features boils that fill with pus and ultimately crust over and fall off.
It can be hard to tell between monkeypox and other common rashes, such as chickenpox.
Swollen lymph nodes are a hallmark feature of monkeypox, the World Health Organization said.
How dangerous is Monkeypox?
The condition can be deadly in some cases.
The proportion of those with monkeypox that die from it ranges from 1% to 10% depending on the strain, the WHO said. The two strains are the West African clade and Congo Basin clade.
UK health officials said on May 16 that its cases were from the West African clade, and scientists from Portugal’s National Institute of Health identified the same strain that strain is associated with a lower risk of death, of about 1%, said Paul Griffin, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Queensland.
Griffin said that while it’s important that awareness is raised, “there are several important considerations with this virus that means we do not need to overreact.
It is relatively hard to spread, and we already have great vaccines and potentially some treatments available also.”
Treatment for monkeypox is mostly supportive for a cough or cold, for example.
Most people recover without treatment within a few weeks.
A monkeypox vaccine has been approved and the vaccine for smallpox can be used to control outbreaks, but these aren’t widely available.
The WHO said the smallpox vaccine could provide up to 85% protection against monkeypox, and people vaccinated against smallpox in childhood may experience a milder disease.
Britain is offering the smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers to boost protection, Reuters reported.
Two antiviral drugs, called cidofovir and tecovirimat, can also be used to control outbreaks of monkeypox.