As the world is reeling back from a COVID-19 pandemic and struggling with worldwide inflation, the raised concerns over the recent increase in monkeypox infection cases from different parts of the globe are terrifying.
But, what is monkeypox infection? To what extent should we be concerned? And will Monkeypox evolve into the next pandemic after COVID?
What is Monkeypox Infection?
Monkeypox isn’t a new infection. The virus was initially identified in a youngster suspected to have smallpox in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. (DRC).
As the name suggests, the disease was first documented in monkies kept in research, dating back to the 1950s. However, after its first wave of human infection in the 1970s, the disease disappeared for 40 years. Four decades back, vaccination succeeded in eradicating the viral infection in 1980, only to re-emerge in Nigeria in 2017.
On 18th May 2022, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Massachusetts health official confirmed the first case of Monkeypox in a patient who had recently visited Canada. Since then, a number of infection cases have sprung from Europe and the United Kingdom.
Till now, the following countries have recorded cases of the infection:
- United Kingdom
- United States
- Europe (Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Spain, Germany)
Understanding Symptoms And Vaccines
The monkeypox virus has two significant strains:
- The Congo strain
- West African strain
The most common symptoms of the virus are mild to severe fever, lesion, muscle ache, and chills. Furthermore, it can take between six to thirteen days to show the symptoms in an infected person. However, currently, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available to tackle the infectious virus.
Although Monkeypox is unlikely to produce another pandemic, the concern of another significant epidemic is justified given the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Though uncommon and typically mild, Monkeypox has the potential to cause severe sickness. In addition, health experts are afraid that increasing travel will result in more instances.
Considering the health risks and speed of contagion, the World Health Organization has now called an emergency meeting of experts to discuss the situation.
Experts suspect that individuals vaccinated against smallpox are primarily immune to Monkeypox, though still in research. However, since smallpox was eradicated years ago, the vaccination program against the virus was halted. Therefore, the cases of Monkeypox are more common in youngsters than in the older generation with immunity against smallpox.
How Is Monkeypox Transmitted?
Monkeypox is spread to people by coming into intimate contact with an infected individual or animal or touching contaminated material. Rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels are thought to transmit it.
Lesions, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated objects such as bedding are all ways for the illness to spread. However, the virus is less infectious and produces less severe sickness than smallpox.
However, according to health experts, some of these illnesses may be transferred through sexual contact. The WHO said it was also looking into many instances involving persons identified as homosexual or bisexual.
According to WHO, three things make the early cases unusual:
- None have travelled to areas where Monkeypox is prevalent.
- Most are being detected through sexual health services.
- They are spread widely across Europe and beyond, which suggests transmission has been ongoing for some time.
Did Scientists Warn About Resurfacing Monkeypox in 2019?
According to a story in the Sunday Telegraph, specialists had given a warning about the monkeypox sickness three years ago. The news organization published an article on an old seminar. Experts met in London in 2019 to address the need to produce “next-generation vaccinations and therapies.“
The specialists at the event reportedly highlighted how a significant portion of the world’s population (about 70%) remains unprotected against smallpox since smallpox vaccines were discontinued after the illness was eradicated (or paused). It eventually means that the population is no longer immune to other members of the same viral family.
According to the paper, previous monkeypox outbreaks, such as those in 2003, 2018, and 2019, revealed that the uncommon monkeypox illness was resurfacing.
Erring on the Side of Caution
With COVID-19 and now, Monkeypox has brought the interactions of humans and wild animals under the spotlight in the medicinal community. Experts believe people should take responsibility for how they interact with wild animals, especially the sick and dead. Furthermore, while consuming meat, make sure the meat is healthy and well cooked.
The mortality rate of the Congo strain is 1%, whereas, for the West African strain, the mortality rate is over 10%. However, the severity of the disease in the originated continent of Africa was mild.