Monkeypox, the viral infection that is slowly gripping the world, is increasing its tally in India. Though we have been hearing about this contagious infection for the last two months, India, on July 23, reported its 4th Monkeypox case baffling the doctors and the health authorities alike. While a 31-year-old male from New Delhi with no history of foreign travel tested positive for the Monkeypox virus, the other three confirmed cases are from Kerala.
Meanwhile, the WHO on Saturday raised the alarm by declaring monkeypox as a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which often serves as a precursor to a pandemic. According to WHO, there is a multi-country Monkeypox outbreak with more than 16,000 cases being reported across 74 nations.
A PHEIC, as per the WHO, represents – “an extraordinary event, which creates a public health risk to other States via the international spread, and which potentially needs an organized international action.” The health authorities in India are on alert and have issued guidelines to monitor the situation. Stringent surveillance is now being pressed into action, and international travellers are being screened for the virus.
However, do not press the panic button yet. Here is all you need to know about this contagious virus.
What Is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis, a virus transmitted to humans from animals with symptoms related to smallpox, however, it is clinically less severe. With the elimination of smallpox in 1980 and following the ending of smallpox vaccination, monkeypox fever has emerged as the most vital orthopoxvirus for public health. Monkeypox mainly occurs in the rainforest regions of central and west Africa. Animal hosts include a wide variety of rodents and non-human primates.
Are There Different Types of Monkeypox?
There are two types of Monkeypox virus – Western African and Congo Basin. The current outbreak is indicative of the Western African variety.
What Are The Symptoms Of Monkeypox?
In humans, the symptoms of monkeypox mostly mimic smallpox. However, in patients suffering from monkeypox, the enlargement of lymph nodes is often noticed. The infection starts flaring up 12 days after the incubation period.
The common signs and symptoms of monkeypox include:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Uneasiness and tiredness
One of the most commonly reported symptoms of monkeypox is a severe rash that looks like blisters. It can appear on the face, mouth, hands, feet, chest, genitals, and anus. The rash appears 1 to 3 days after developing the fever and appears on the face before striking on other parts of the body.
The lesions then go through different stages that would last for 2 to 4 weeks before drying or crusting and then falling off.
What Causes Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection, and it spreads in different ways. It can be caused due to:
- Direct contact with the person infected with monkeypox or touching contagious rash, scabs, and body fluids
- Intimate physical contact, prolonged kissing, and cuddling getting exposed to respiratory secretions
- A pregnant woman can infect the fetus with the virus through the placenta
- Touching or being scratched or bitten by an infected animal
How To Prevent Monkeypox?
- Do not touch the person infected with monkeypox
- Stay away from kissing, hugging, cuddling, or getting intimate with the person affected by this infection
- Do not share personal hygiene, makeup or grooming items like towels, clothing, beds, utensils, and razors with the person suffering from monkeypox
- Maintain personal hygiene by washing your hands, fingers and palms often thoroughly with alcohol-based hand wash or hand sanitizer
- If you are infected with monkeypox, isolate yourself immediately in a separate room
- Stay away from other family members and pets
- If symptoms are severe and persist for more than one day, alert your doctor immediately
How Long Does The Symptoms of Monkeypox Last?
The symptoms of Monkeypox infection usually last for 2 to 4 weeks.
Can Monkeypox Cause Death?
According to various studies, the West African type of Monkeypox virus, which is identified in this current outbreak, is rarely fatal. However, those with compromised immunity, children below the age of 8, patients suffering from chronic skin conditions like eczema, pregnant women, and lactating mothers are at high risk of fatality.
Treatment for Monkeypox:
At this point of time, there is no defined treatment to cure or prevent this viral infection. Various studies claim that the smallpox vaccine is effective in lowering the risk of monkeypox in those vaccinated against smallpox. Doctors would prescribe anti-viral medication for symptomatic relief.
If not treated on time, the rashes can be extremely painful and leave permanent scarring.
Is My Pet At The Risk of Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a zoonotic virus, which means it can spread between animals and humans. However, now, there is no evidence to prove that this contagious virus can affect domesticated pets.
How Monkeypox Relates To Smallpox?
The clinical presentation of monkeypox closely mimics smallpox, also an orthopoxvirus. Smallpox has been completely eradicated, but many decades back, it was a deadlier infection that resulted in 30% of the deaths in those infected with it. The world witnessed its last Smallpox case in 1977, after which it was declared eradicated, thanks to aggressive global awareness campaigns and vaccination programs. Though smallpox doesn’t occur anymore, medical experts are skeptical and vigilant that it might reappear through natural mechanisms and even a laboratory accident.
The medical experts, scientists, and health communities are working towards global preparedness in case of smallpox re-emergence by introducing better diagnostic methods, advanced vaccines, and antiviral agents.
Meanwhile, maintain social distance, personal hygiene, stay safe and healthy.