Global health organizations and scientists all over the world are now closely investigating the recent Monkeypox outbreaks in several parts of the world.
So far, countries who have at least 1 confirmed case are the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel. Parts of Europe also reported cases, including Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and Sweden.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 80 confirmed cases of the disease so far all over the world and 50 pending investigations that have yet to be confirmed. They also stated that the spread of the disease is likely in the future.
As such, WHO is now coordinating with affected countries to monitor the situation comprehensively and assure them to update recent findings as they investigate the outbreak.
In recent news, WHO also released factual information on the ongoing outbreak. Here is what people need to know so far:
What is Monkeypox?
The term ‘Monkeypox’ was first identified among colonies of monkeys in 1958, and was later detected among humans in 1970.
Monkeypox is a virus transmitted to humans from animals whose symptoms are similar to Smallpox virus, a serious infectious disease that was declared eradicated in 1980. However, Monkeypox is clinically found to be less severe than Smallpox according to WHO.
While the clear history of Monkeypox has not been traced indefinitely, experts find that the virus is typically found in Central and West Africa, typically in tropical rainforests or where animal carriers of the virus live.
In May 2022, several outbreaks of Monkeypox were reported in non-endemic countries or countries where the disease is not native or common, most likely outside African countries. Due to this, concerns have been raised over a possible global transmission of Monkeypox.
How do you catch Monkeypox?
Humans can get it from both animals and humans via direct contact with the animal’s body fluids, including blood, skin injuries, mucus (uhog), and touching or ingestion of any contaminated objects.
Reports provide a few animal species identified as likely carriers of the virus. This includes rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species. In general, the most likely carriers of the virus are rodents (daga). Eating uncooked meat and other products from infected animals is said to possibly transmit the disease as well.
In human-to-human transmission, people can catch it from prolonged face-to-face contact. As of now, it is unclear whether the virus can be transmitted via sexual contact (via semen or vaginal fluids).
Who can catch Monkeypox?
In general, anyone who has close contact with infected individuals or animals can catch the disease. Experts report that people who have been vaccinated against Smallpox disease are likely to have more protection against Monkeypox.
“As monkeypox spreads through close contact, the response should focus on the people affected and their close contacts. People who closely interact with someone who is infectious are at greater risk for infection: this includes health workers, household members and sexual partners,” said WHO in a recent statement.
Newborns and people with immune issues are also vulnerable to Monkeypox and are at risk of more serious symptoms of the virus. Children are more prone to having severe symptoms of Monkeypox, and it can be passed to a fetus or newborn through birth or physical contact.
Symptoms, Treatment, and Protection
Confirmed cases reported similar symptoms, commonly most visible on the skin. Common symptoms that have been reported are:
- Intense headache
- Muscle aches
- Back pain
- Low energy
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin rash or lesions
Rashes usually begin around 1 to 3 days after the start of a fever. Lesions (injuries that can be spot or rash-like) are typically filled with clear or yellowish fluid that can crust, dry up, and fall off after a while.
The number of lesions varies, and they are generally found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, mouth, genitals, and eyes. Symptoms last between 2 to 4 weeks and go away on their own without treatment.
While there are no confirmed cases in the Philippines yet, WHO provided a few guidelines on how people can protect themselves and reduce global transmissions:
- Continue to wear masks.
- Regularly clean your hands with soap and water, or disinfect with alcohol for the hands.
- Regularly clean clothes, towels, bed sheets, and similar surfaces that have contact with skin injuries, rashes, or mucus.
- Limit contact with people, especially skin-to-skin contact.
- Disinfect and dispose of contaminated objects.
Several vaccines developed against Smallpox are clinically proven to provide some protection against Monkeypox, including Invamune, Imvanex, and Jynneos.
Is Monkeypox dangerous?
The WHO asserts that symptoms of Monkeypox will generally go away on their own after a few weeks.
However, newborns, children, and people with underlying health issues (such as immune deficiencies) may be at risk of more severe symptoms and possible death from the virus. A few complications from severe cases include skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, or eye infections, which can lead to blindness.
WHO advises all individuals all over the world to promote positive health-seeking behavior. This behavior means everyone is encouraged to get checked for a possible infection. This will help authorities in mitigating the situation and preventing more cases to come.
Positive health-seeking behavior can be encouraged by avoiding stigmas or attaching the disease to a specific race, gender, or any particular group of people. WHO responded against any kind of discrimination against anyone.
“First of all, anyone who has close physical contact of any kind with someone who has monkeypox is at risk, regardless of who they are, what they do, who they choose to have sex with or any other factor. Secondly, stigmatizing people because of an illness or a disease is unacceptable,” they stated.
As more reports come in regarding the outbreak, WHO advises people to let go of stigmatized groups. Stigmas are usually an unfavorable mark of shame or disgrace associated with a particular group that people perceive to be associated with Monkeypox.
“Stigmatizing groups of people because of a disease is never acceptable. It can be a barrier to ending an outbreak as it may prevent people from seeking care and lead to undetected spread,” WHO added.
Latest reports in the Philippines encourage Pinoys to follow the same safety protocols as COVID-19. While findings and cases of Monkeypox are still developing, the Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) said there is no FDA-approved vaccine yet against Monkeypox.
WHO states that vaccines against Smallpox can provide a little protection against Monkeypox. Currently, DOH is still exploring possible available sources for Monkeypox vaccines in the case that the virus reaches the country.
DOH released a few guidelines for Pinoys to be informed and prepared for Monkeypox. Pinoys can access it at bit.ly/MonkeypoxFacts.
As of writing, investigations into Monkeypox are still ongoing worldwide, with reports finding the virus to be both “containable” and “moderate risk.”
Health organizations like WHO are also taking part by working with countries that have already confirmed cases.
Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/monkeypox, https://www.who.int/news/item/20-05-2022-who-working-closely-with-countries-responding-to-monkeypox, https://www.who.int/philippines/news/q-a-detail/monkeypox, https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDOHgov, https://www.facebook.com/phredcross/