Just when we thought coronavirus was reaching an endemic state, another viral infection, Monkeypox, was raising the alarm across the globe. This unusual occurrence of the virus, confined mainly to central and western Africa till a few weeks back, has now spread to several countries across the globe. The United States has also confirmed that the monkey pox cases that were only a handful even weeks back have rapidly multiplied. 

While World Health Organisation is keenly monitoring this outbreak and is considering declaring it a global emergency, another prestigious health agency, the World Health Network (an independent international collaboration of scientific and citizen teams entrusting action to improve health and prevent harm), announced Monkeypox as a pandemic. 


Monkeypox virus - Test

In accordance with the Monkeypoxmeter, a website that tracks the infective cases in real-time, WHN declared that there are at least 3417 confirmed monkeypox cases across 58 nations, with the outbreak gradually extending to several countries across the globe. Although the death rates are still much lower than smallpox, positive cases can grow exponentially, just like Covid-19, unless practical global actions are taken to halt the ongoing spread. If more time is taken to implement measures, millions of people might die within a few weeks, with many more becoming blind or disabled.

 According to WHN, the crucial purpose of declaring Monkeypox as a pandemic is to achieve a concerted action across multiple nations or over the world to deter widespread harm. 

 Yaneer Bar-Yam, President of New England Complex System Institute, and the co-founder of WHN, mentions that there is no rational explanation to pause for the pandemic to grow further as any delay would only lead to severe consequences with history repeating itself just like the beginning of 2020 with Covid-19. Precautionary steps must be implemented immediately to control the outbreak with minimal effort and prevent it from worsening. For the time being, the actions required now are to communicate to the general populace regarding the symptoms of Monkeypox and provide a widely available testing facility and contact tracking with minimum quarantines. 

 Until now, adults have been more susceptible to Monkeypox infection, but any spread amongst the children would lead to much more severe cases and deaths. Moreover, infections of animals, especially rats and other rodents, but also pets, might make it much more dangerous to stop. Passively waiting for the cases to grow might only lead to these risks without any reimbursing benefit.

 Epidemiologist, Health Economist, and co-founder of WHN, Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, urges WHO to declare its own Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) at the earliest as not declaring a PHEIC immediately in early January 2020 was a history lesson for all of us, of what acting late on an epidemic can mean for the whole world. Additionally, WHN advises all local public health authorities to pertain to the precautionary principles and use the available, necessary, and proven interventions to contain and stop the spread of the infectious Monkeypox virus.


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Till now, no such case has been reported in India. However, in India, the National Centre for Disease Control and the Indian Council of Medical Research is closely watching the outbreak and the department has asked states to be vigilant. Renowned medical experts told the media that, there is no need to panic, as the potential of monkeypox fever is very less, besides being a self-limiting infection. Further, experts also stated that smallpox vaccination works against it, and can be immunologically speculated that certain people in India may be immune to monkeypox.

Read this article to know what is monkeypox fever, its causes, symptoms and treatment options available.

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.

Also Read: Viral Fever: 5 Incredible Natural Herbs To Combat Viral Fever

Pathogen

Monkeypox virus is an enclosed double-stranded DNA virus, that belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family. Two unique genetic clades of the monkeypox virus are identified- the Central African (Congo Basin) clade and the West African clade. The Congo Basin clade has caused more serious diseases and is thought to be highly transmissible.

What Are Natural Hosts For Monkeypox Virus?

Several kinds of animal species have been identified as susceptible to the monkeypox virus, which includes rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species. However, it is still not clear about the history of the monkeypox virus and further studies are required to identify the exact source and how virus transmission is maintained in nature.

Symptoms Of Monkeypox

In humans, monkeypox is quite similar to smallpox, except for the enlargement of lymph nodes with monkeypox. Around 12 days of the incubation period, the infection starts with fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, feeling of discomfort and tiredness are common symptoms, Within 1 to 3 days, after developing a fever, the patient may see a popular rash (ie raised bumps), mostly seen on the face first, but at times initially on other regions of the body. The lesions happen through different stages, before crusting and falling off.

Key Facts Of Monkeypox:

  • This is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae
  • It is a viral zoonotic disease that develops mainly in tropical rainforest regions of Central and West Africa and is rarely distributed to other areas
  • This viral infection usually shows clinically with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may result in a range of medical conditions
  • It is a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks, severe cases can happen. The case-fatality ratio has been around 3-6%
  • Monkeypox is transmitted to human beings via close contact with an infected person or animal or any material contaminated with the virus
  • It spreads from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and soiled materials like bedding
  • Vaccines used to eradicate smallpox also offered protection against monkeypox. Newer vaccines have been developed and one of them has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox
  • Antiviral medicine used for the treatment of smallpox has been also licensed for the treatment of monkeypox

How Long Does Monkeypox Last?

Monkeypox infection usually lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.

Is Monkeypox Fatal?

Human studies carried out in remote areas of central and west Africa have revealed case-fatality ratios of as high as 10%.

Also Read: Fever Profile Test: What It Is And What To Expect?

Treatment For Monkeypox

Currently, there is no treatment available for this viral infection. However, the smallpox vaccine has been found to lower the risk of monkeypox among previously vaccinated individuals. The Centres for Disease Control And Prevention is evaluating the possible role of smallpox vaccines as well as the therapeutic use of the antiviral drug cidofovir.

Prevention

Raising awareness of risk factors and educating people about effective steps they can take to lessen exposure to viruses is the key prevention strategy for monkeypox. Research is now underway to assess the viability and suitability of vaccination for the prevention and spread of monkeypox.