The outbreak of monkeypox has been labeled a public health emergency of worldwide concern by the World Health Organization (WHO), despite the fact that the illness is not one that the general public has been acquainted with.
As of this past Saturday, the virus was found in more than 70 nations, 68 of which had not previously reported any instances of monkeypox. According to the CDC, confirmed cases have been found in every state in the United States with the exception of the following six: Alaska, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Concerns concerning the possibility of an outbreak of monkeypox have been voiced within the scientific community for well over a decade.
Here is all you need to know about monkeypox, how to protect yourself from it, and what to do if you suspect you may have it. There have been approximately 16,000 recorded cases worldwide, and the number continues to grow.
What precisely is meant by the term “monkeypox”?
The only thing that monkeypox and chickenpox have in common is that they are both caused by viruses. This is the sole connection between the two diseases. Instead, the disease most closely resembles smallpox, which was eliminated from the world in 1980 as a result of widespread immunization efforts.
Both viruses belong to the family known as the orthopoxviruses. The monkeypox virus is not as contagious or deadly as the smallpox virus. However, other experts are concerned that the monkeypox virus might evolve into a form that poses an even larger risk to people.
Research that was conducted in 2008 and published in 2008 cautioned that if monkeypox were to be introduced to a community that had not been vaccinated against it, the virus may take advantage of the scenario and spread across the population.
According to the findings of the research, despite the fact that smallpox has been eliminated from the human population since 1980, there is still the possibility that monkeypox may fill the hole. “The potential for further modification of the virus to become a more effective human pathogen was shown by an extended chain of person-to-person transmissions of monkeypox in 2003 in the Republic of Congo,”
Prior to the epidemic in 2022, almost all instances of monkeypox reported outside of Africa – where some rodents and non-human primates may be carriers of the virus – were associated with international travel and imported animals.
The disease was first identified in 1958 in study colonies consisting of monkeys because of its characteristic rash, which resembles that of a monkey. However, this does not necessarily indicate that the sickness began with the animals, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the origins of the disease is still unclear.
The single epidemic that occurred in the United States took place in 2003, when 47 confirmed and probable cases were found in six different states. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at the time that the epidemic was linked to pet prairie dogs that had come into contact with sick rodents kept nearby. These rodents included multiple species of squirrels, mice, and rats.
What signs and symptoms are there?
The following are some of the signs and symptoms that may be experienced by persons who have monkeypox:
a lack of vitality or energy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a rash that looks like acne or blisters filled with pus may also be present. It is possible for it to form in any part of the human body, including the face, feet, hands, genitals, and even the oral cavity.
It is essential to note that some people have a rash that is not as obvious as others have described seeing. Some people only acquired a single lesion, which may be confused with a sign of a sexually transmitted illness such as herpes or syphilis. These people were diagnosed with genital herpes.
Last month, a physician who specializes in viral diseases and works at McGill University named Donald Vinh told NPR, “I believe that’s really catastrophic.” “because it is clear how these patients may go between the cracks. However, they are still infectious and have the potential to spread the illness.”
According to the CDC, the rash may normally persist between two and four weeks, and the organization also notes that some people get the rash prior to the appearance of other symptoms, while other people may only have the rash.
How dangerous is the monkeypox virus?
The good news is that the variety of monkeypox that is spreading over the world, which originates in West Africa, is not very lethal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 99 percent of patients can anticipate surviving their condition.
On the other hand, an infection could be deadly for children less than 8 years old, people whose immune systems are already impaired, and women who are either pregnant or nursing when they get it.
Scarring from the illness’s rash is the most typical long-term effect of having an infection. According to study on monkeypox in people that was published in 2009, more significant symptoms, such as respiratory distress and bronchopneumonia, may emerge as a result of contracting the disease. Additionally, the virus is capable of causing corneal scarring and eye infections, both of which, in severe circumstances, may lead to a loss of eyesight that is irreversible.
Just how does the virus get passed around?
The Centers for Illness Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the likelihood of catching monkeypox in the United States is “believed to be minimal.” However, anybody who comes into intimate contact with a person who is harboring the disease runs the risk of being infected.
The present epidemic is being carried from person to person via contact with other people. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that spending too much time face-to-face with a monkeypox carrier may put you at risk for developing an illness through droplet respiratory particles.
The virus may also be transmitted by direct physical contact, such as when someone touches a sore, as well as through the sharing of certain body fluids, such as saliva. It is possible for a person to get an infection by touching goods and surfaces that have been shared by someone who is experiencing symptoms.
How can I safeguard myself from harm?
Because the virus can be passed from person to person through direct skin contact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people to use caution in settings where it is impossible to maintain a reasonable amount of personal space and where avoiding contact with other people is impractical. The danger is increased in settings like packed parties and clubs where people wear little or no clothes and are more likely to come into touch with one another.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that you put away potentially contaminated things such as bedding, clothing, and towels until you have time to do your laundry. While you are cleaning, be sure to constantly wash your hands with some soap and water, and after you are through, throw away all of the cleaning supplies that you used.
One last thing you can do to protect yourself and the people you care about is to keep yourself and others up to speed on the progression of the virus in your region. You are able to do so by checking the CDC map, which records instances of monkeypox by state, in addition to the warnings provided by state and local health departments.
The CDC reports that researchers are still attempting to determine if the monkeypox virus may be detected in semen, vaginal fluids, or feces. Although monkeypox is not believed to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD), the CDC claims that researchers are still trying to figure this out. People who engage in sexual activity should be honest about the possibility that they have been infected with the virus, and you should encourage your partner or partners to do the same.
It is recommended that pregnant people who have the virus and are about to give birth undergo cesarean sections so as to reduce the likelihood of the infection being passed on to their newborn children. In addition to that, there have been instances of stillbirths, premature deliveries, and the loss of pregnancies.
What actions should I take if I start exhibiting symptoms?
In order to stop the transmission of the virus, the first thing you should do is quarantine yourself, regardless of whether you are now having symptoms or feel you may have had contact with a person who is carrying it. The next step is to consult a health care provider, who will advise you on whether or not you need to undergo testing.
Getting a test, on the other hand, is not always as simple as it seems. According to scientists who spoke with NPR, the epidemic in the United States is more widespread than the official case count indicates; one of these researchers described the testing situation as “abysmal.”
People who suspect they may have been exposed are being advised by the WHO to minimize their contact with others and to seclude oneself for a period of three weeks beginning at the moment they believe they may have been exposed.
In the event that you test positive for monkeypox, your healthcare professional will walk you through the next steps. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it should take the virus two to four weeks to complete its course, after which time the symptoms should go away on their own without the need for treatment.
If you are experiencing the telltale signs, the World Health Organization has some advice for you:
Steer clear of picking at your skin.
Maintain a dry and uncovered state on the skin.
Skin should be washed with sterile water or treated with an antiseptic.
If you have lesions on your body, you should soak in a warm bath with baking soda or Epsom salts.
When treating lesions in the mouth with a saltwater rinse, do it in the same manner as when treating canker sores.
Isolate yourself in your room if you live in a shared home, and if at all feasible, use the bathroom that is specifically for guests. Make sure you do your own laundry, use separate dining utensils, towels, and devices, and wash your own clothes. Keep your windows open as much as you can to let in fresh air, but steer clear of activities like cleaning and vacuuming, since they might agitate virus particles that are already present on the floor and cause more infections.
Where do we stand with vaccines?
The United States employs two distinct forms of smallpox vaccinations in its battle against monkeypox because previous research indicates that these vaccines may also be 85 percent effective against the monkeypox virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there is no evidence available on the efficiency of either vaccination in relation to the current epidemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that those who have been exposed to monkeypox and have not had a smallpox vaccination within the last three years should obtain one as soon as possible. In order to lessen the severity of symptoms, the organization suggests persons be immunized within four days after exposure and no later than two weeks afterward.
Vaccines may cause a variety of adverse reactions in some people, including localized redness and itching at the injection site, moderate fever, fatigue, and enlargement of the glands.
Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of one of the vaccines — more are expected to be made available in the coming weeks and months — and the other vaccine shouldn’t be taken by people who have certain skin conditions, those who have a weakened immune system, or people who are pregnant. However, more are expected to become available in the coming weeks and months.