Monkeypox has been making headway across the U.K., Spain, and Portugal since early May 2022. France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Australia have since confirmed at least one case in each country as well.
In the U.K., 20 monkeypox cases have been confirmed since early May. During a press conference on May 17, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said that these are mostly separate occurrences except for “a family cluster with two confirmed cases and one probable case[…]”
Recently, Canada and the U.S. joined these nations in tracking and tracing the virus.
As of May 19, Canada confirmed two monkeypox cases and said it was investigating 17 suspected cases.
The Massachusetts Department of Health also reported the case of a man who was recently in Canada. There have been several Canadian cases involving this man.
WHO officials have been following the Monkeypox’s course in Europe and North America for several weeks. However, from the data available so far, they are not aware that the virus has spread for a long time.
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What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a zoonotic virus that transmits animal diseases to humans. The cases are most common in tropical rainforests, where virus-carrying animals live.
The monkeypox virus belongs to the orthopoxvirus family. It also has two distinct genetic strains or clades: the Central African Clade (Congo Basin) and the West African Clade. It is known that the Congo basin strain is spreading rapidly and causing worse symptoms.
Monkeypox occurs naturally in Africa, especially in West and Central Africa.
American cases are unique and associated with international travel from areas where the disease is more common.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Symptoms and signs of monkeypox include headache, skin rash, fever, body aches, tremors, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. It causes symptoms similar to smallpox, but milder.
The time of infection until the onset of symptoms, called the incubation period, can be from 5 to 21 days.
The disease usually resolves within two to four weeks.
Severe cases are more common in people with immunodeficiency and young children. Recently, mortality from smallpox has been around 3-6%.
How is Monkeypox Transmitted?
The transmission of the monkeypox virus to humans is limited, but it comes when there’s close contact with the skin, airdrops, body fluids and objects infected with the virus.
Recent cases of monkeypox in the United Kingdom and Canada have been reported due to sexual activities where men have had sex with men. Regarding this trend, Dr I. Socé Fall, Regional Emergency Director for the WHO Public Health Program, warns:
“This is new information that we need to research carefully to better understand the dynamics of local transmission in the UK and beyond.”
Not much is known about the latest cases
During a press conference on May 17, Dr Fall acknowledged that public health officials still had much to learn about the smallpox virus.
“But the most important thing is that we really need to invest in understanding the development of monkeypox because we don’t know much about transmission dynamics, clinical signs, epidemiology. We also have important roles in terms of therapy and diagnostics,” he said.
WHO experts believe that tackling the monkeypox call should be more than just fighting the disease.
During the press conference, Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergency Program, said: “Responding is not just about getting answers about the virus. We need to get answers about the hosts, we need to get answers about human behaviour and ethics.” and we must act at all levels to try to ensure the protection of the human population. “