Fears of a potential global outbreak as cases of a rare disease known as monkeypox have been spotted in the UK, Portugal, and Spain, while US health officials are monitoring six Americans. What is monkeypox?
Fear of a global outbreak of rare, viral monkeypox disease
Rising cases of a rare disease known as monkeypox, which is related to smallpox, raise fears of a potential global outbreak. The number of infected people is increasing in Europe, particularly in the UK, Portugal, and Spain, while US health officials are monitoring six Americans who were potentially exposed.
Although it is far more common for children to be affected by monkeypox, the current cases appear to be mostly among young males. The first signs of the disease begin with flu-like symptoms, and “within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pox-like pustules can develop over the entire body and within mucous membranes in the nose and mouth.
Health professionals are recommending anyone with rashes or lesions seek medical attention immediately.
Suspected pattern of transmission
In the UK, eight cases have been detected, where one has been determined to have brought the virus back from Nigeria, where the disease is widespread, the Daily Mail reported.
Spain is monitoring eight men believed to be infected, with five men in Portugal testing positive and at least 15 more cases under investigation.
The European cases appear to be isolated to mostly young males, particularly gay and bisexual, with officials stating that the pattern of transmission is “highly suggestive of spread in sexual networks,” according to the Daily Mail.
According to local media, all of the cases were detected at STI clinics in Madrid.
Officials in the UK are concerned that more cases are going undetected.
Health officials in the United States are monitoring six Americans who shared a flight with a British patient who tested positive for the virus, the Daily Mail reported.
What is monkeypox (poxvirus)?
Monkeypox is a rare pox-like disease that was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys that were kept for research, according to the CDC.
The viral disease affects primates and rodents in the rainforest areas of West and Central Africa. It is related to smallpox and is sometimes transmitted to humans and is classified as an orthopoxvirus.
There are two types (strains) of monkeypox virus — Central African and West African.
The typical duration of illness with monkeypox is 2−4 weeks, and while most people recover, it can be fatal. In Africa, monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease, according to the CDC.
The first human case of the disease was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although anyone can get monkeypox, it more commonly affects children, with 90% of cases in Africa affecting those under 15 years old. However, the current outbreak is affecting mostly young men.
Monkeypox is transmitted when someone comes into contact with an animal or person affected by the virus. It can be transmitted through airborne droplets, or through broken skin, such as bites or scratches, or through direct contact with blood, bodily fluids, or pox lesions, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Onset of monkeypox
The symptoms of monkeypox are similar but milder than those of smallpox, according to the CDC.
The onset of monkeypox starts with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. Monkeypox causes the lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy), and that is a major difference between the disease and smallpox, in which lymph node swelling does not occur.
Appearance of monkeypox
A glance at photos of people suffering from monkeypox can be horrifying, as the body breaks out with pustules, most often on the face and chest, but can spread from head to toe. Mucous membranes inside the nose and mouth can also be affected. Lesions progress through the following stages before falling off: