Monkeypox: the international outbreak which began in May 2022, has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency.
Here are some of the important things to know about monkeypox.
What is Monkeypox?
It is a zoonotic viral disease, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It can also pass from human to human.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms usually include fever, severe headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and skin rashes or lesions.
The rash usually begins on the first or third day of the onset of fever. The lesions may be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, then crust over, dry up, and fall off.
The number of lesions varies, from a few to several thousand. The rash tends to appear on the face, the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet. They can also be found in the mouth, genitals, and eyes.
Can people die from monkeypox?
In most cases, the symptoms of Monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks but, in between three and six per cent of cases reported in countries where it is endemic, it can lead to medical complications and even death. New-born babies, children, and people with immune system deficiencies may be at risk of more severe symptoms and death from the disease.
In severe cases, symptoms include skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye infections that can lead to vision loss.
Many of the fatal cases are children or people who may have other health conditions.
How is monkeypox transmitted from animals to humans?
The virus can be spread to people when they come into physical contact with infected animals, which include rodents and primates.
The risk of contracting it from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are sick or dead (including contact with their flesh and blood).
It is crucial to stress that any food containing meat or animal parts should be cooked, especially in countries where Monkeypox is endemic.
How is it spread from person to person?
The virus is spread through physical contact with someone who has symptoms. Rashes, body fluids (such as fluids, pus, or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious.
Ulcers, lesions or sores can also be infectious since the virus can be spread through saliva. Contact with objects that have been in contact with the infected person – such as clothing, bedding, towels – or objects such as eating utensils can also represent a source of infection.
People who have the disease are contagious while they have symptoms (usually within the first two to four weeks). It is not clear whether or not people who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease.
Who is at risk of getting it?
Anyone who comes into physical contact with someone with symptoms or an infected animal, is at increased risk of infection.
Those who live with infected people have a high risk of infection. Health workers, by the very nature of their job, are at risk of exposure.
Children are often more likely to have severe symptoms than teens and adults.
The virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to the foetus through the placenta, or through contact of an infected parent with the child, during or after delivery, through skin-to-skin contact.
How can I protect myself and others?
You can reduce the risk of contagion by limiting contact with people who suspect they have the disease, or are confirmed cases.
A smallpox vaccine was recently developed and approved in 2019 for use in preventing Monkeypox but it is not yet widely available
It is important to wear a face mask when in close proximity to the infected person, especially if they are coughing or have mouth sores, and when touching the clothing or bedding of an infected person. Avoid skin-to-skin contact by wearing disposable gloves.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after coming into contact with the infected person, with their clothing (including sheets and towels), or touching other items or surfaces (such as utensils or dishes) that may have come into contact with rashes or respiratory secretions.