“The countries now reporting monkeypox are countries where there are normally no monkeypox outbreaks,” Rosamund Lewis, head of the smallpox secretariat of the WHO emergency program, said at a press conference at the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday.
“This is an emerging disease. It’s been emerging in the last 20 to 30 years, (so) it’s not unknown, it’s been described very well,” Lewis told reporters. “The risk to the general public therefore seems low, because we know that the main modes of transmission are as described in the past.”
Cases in parts of the world other than Africa are typically related to international travel or imported animals infected with the smallpox, the CDC said.
“Right now we don’t want people to worry,” Murthy said. “These numbers are still small; we want (people) to be aware of (the) symptoms and to contact their doctor if they have any concerns.”
What are the first symptoms of monkey pox?
“One feature that distinguishes monkeypox infection from smallpox infection is the development of swollen lymph nodes,” according to the CDC.
Next comes a widespread rash on the face and body, including in the mouth and on the palms and soles.
The painful, raised pox is pearly and fluid-filled, often surrounded by red circles. The lesions eventually disappear, disappearing over a period of two to three weeks, the CDC said.
In the current outbreak, according to the WHO and CDC, there appears to be an increased number of cases causing rashes in the groin area of patients.
“In some cases, during the early stages of the disease, the rash was mostly in the genital and perianal area,” said Dr. John Brooks, chief physician of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, in a news briefing Monday.
“In some cases, it has caused anal or genital lesions that resemble other diseases such as herpes or chickenpox or syphilis,” he said.
A “remarkable proportion” in the current outbreak has been observed among gay and bisexual men, “but the current risk of monkeypox exposure is by no means exclusive to the gay and bisexual community in the US. Anyone, anyone, can develop [and] spread monkeypox,” Brooks said.
In general, the risk of monkeypox is moderate for people with multiple sexual partners and low for the wider population, according to a rapid risk assessment report published Monday by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
However, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.
How is monkeypox spread?
According to experts, close contact with an infected person is required for the monkeypox virus to spread.
Infection can occur after exposure to “broken skin, mucous membranes, respiratory droplets, infected bodily fluids or even contact with contaminated linen,” Neil Mabbott, personal chair in immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh Veterinary School in Scotland, said in a statement.
“Once the lesions have healed, the scabs (which may contain a contagious virus) can be shed as dust, which can be inhaled,” said Dr. Michael Skinner, who is on the faculty of medicine in Imperial College’s Division of Infectious Diseases. London, in a statement.
“Patients with smallpox became contagious as soon as they developed sores, spreading the virus via droplets when coughing or sneezing. They remained contagious until their lesions disappeared,” said Dr. Paritosh Prasad, director of the Division of Highly Infectious Diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
However, based on available historical information, monkeypox appears to be less contagious than smallpox, Prasad said.
“Monkeypox can be a serious infection, with the death rate from this type of monkeypox virus being around 1% in other outbreaks. These are often in lower-income environments with limited access to health care,” said Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton in the UK. No deaths have been reported from the current outbreak.
In the developed world, however, “it would be very unusual to see more than a handful of cases in an outbreak, and we won’t see (Covid)-like levels of transmission,” Head said in a statement.
According to the CDC, common household disinfectants can kill the monkeypox virus.
How is monkeypox treated?
There are no specific drugs available to treat the symptoms of monkeypox, so “treatment is generally supportive,” Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement.
“However, there is a vaccine available that can be given to prevent the development of disease,” Whitworth said.
In the US, a two-dose vaccine called Jynneos is currently licensed to prevent monkeypox and can also be used against smallpox. The vaccine has been stockpiled by the US government in the event of a resurgence of the eradicated disease.
“Right now we have over 1,000 doses of that available and we expect that level to increase very rapidly in the coming weeks as the company provides us with more doses,” Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told reporters on a call Monday.
“We hope to maximize vaccine distribution to those we know will benefit,” McQuiston said. “Those are people who have had contact with known monkeypox patients, health professionals, very close personal contact, and especially those who are at high risk for serious disease.”
Where did monkeypox originate?
However, the main carrier of monkeypox disease is still unknown, although “African rodents are believed to play a role in transmission,” the agency said.
The first known case of monkeypox in humans was “registered in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during a period of intensified efforts to eradicate smallpox,” according to the CDC. Since then, most cases have been concentrated in 11 African countries – with several outbreaks in the US and Europe related to travel or importation from endemic countries.
“The pets were infected after being housed near imported small mammals from Ghana,” the CDC said. “This was the first time human monkeypox had been reported outside of Africa.”
Jacqueline Howard, Nadia Kounang, Jen Christensen, Michael Nedelman, Paula Newton, John Bonifield, Naomi Thomas, Alex Hardie and Benjamin Brown of CNN contributed to this report.
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