The World Health Organization declared an outbreak of monkeypox a Public health emergency of international concernBut it is not a disease that the general public is familiar with.
for more than a decademembers of the scientific community were concerned about the possibility of an epidemic of monkeypox.
With nearly 16,000 cases reported worldwide and the number increasing, here’s what you need to know about monkeypox, how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you have it.
What exactly is monkeypox?
Besides referring to wildlife, the only similarity between monkeypox and chickenpox is that they are both a virus. Instead, monkeypox is It is similar to smallpox, which was eradicated through global vaccination efforts in 1980.
The two viruses are from the orthopoxvirus family. Monkeypox is not as contagious or fatal as smallpox. However, some researchers are concerned that monkeypox could mutate and become a greater threat to humans.
One A study published in 2008 He warned that if monkeypox virus was introduced into an unvaccinated population, the virus could take advantage of the situation and turn into a pandemic.
“Although smallpox has been eradicated from humans since 1980, there is potential for monkeypox to fill this void,” the study says. “An extended chain of human-to-human transmissions of monkeypox in 2003 in the Republic of the Congo reveals the potential for further adaptation of the virus to become one of the most successful human pathogens.”
Before the 2022 outbreak, nearly all cases of monkeypox were found outside Africa – where some rodents and non-human primates were likely to carry the virus – It was linked to international travel and imported animals.
The reason it is called monkeypox is because it was first discovered in monkey colonies used for research in 1958. But that does not mean that it originated with animals such as The source of the disease remains unknown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Within the United States, the only The outbreak was in 2003, when 47 confirmed and probable cases were detected in six states. This outbreak has been linked to domestic prairie dogs that came into contact with infected rodents located nearby, including several types of squirrels, mice, and rats, The CDC said at the time.
What are the symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those of smallpox:
- muscle pain
- lack of energy
There can be a rash that looks like pimples and pus-filled blisters, The Center for Disease Control says. It can develop all over the human body, including the face, feet, hands, genitals, and inside the mouth.
It is important to note that doctors see a mild rash in some patients. Some individuals have developed only one lesion that can be considered a symptom of sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes or syphilis, NPR . reported.
“I think that’s actually super critical,” infectious disease doctor Donald Finn of McGill University told NPR last month. “Because you can see how these patients can be missed. But they are still contagious and may spread disease.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the rash usually lasts two to four weeks and that some individuals develop it before other symptoms appear, while others may only experience it. Skin rash.
How deadly is monkeypox?
The good news is that the worldwide version of monkeypox – the kind that spreads in West Africa – is not particularly fatal. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, More than 99% of patients are expected to survive.
However, the infection can be fatal to children under the age of eight, individuals with compromised immune systems, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The most common result after an injury is scarring from the rash. But more serious complications can arise, according to research on monkeypox in humans Published in 2009, including pulmonary distress and bronchopneumonia. The virus can also lead to eye infections and corneal scarring, which in serious cases can lead to permanent vision loss.
How does the virus spread?
The The Center for Disease Control says The risk of monkeypox in the United States is thought to be low, But anyone in close contact with someone who carries the disease is at risk of infection.
The current outbreak is spreading from human to human contact. You can get infected from respiratory droplets by spending a lot of time face to face With a monkey pox holder, The World Health Organization warns.
The virus also spreads through physical contact, including touching the pest, as well as the exchange of certain body fluids such as saliva. An individual can become infected by touching items and surfaces shared with a person showing symptoms.
How do I protect myself?
Evgeniy Maloletka / AP
as such The virus can spread through skin-to-skin contact, the CDC advises people to be careful in situations where one cannot maintain some sense of personal space and bumping into others is impractical. In places where clothing is in short supply and you can experience this contact, such as crowded parties and clubs, the risks increase.
Potentially contaminated items such as bedding, clothes and towels should be contained so that you have time to wash your clothesthe CDC recommends. Make sure to repeat it Wash your hands with soap and water While you clean all the cleaning supplies and dispose of them when you are done.
Another way to keep you and your loved ones safe is to stay updated on the spread of the virus in your area. You can do this by checking out CDC . Mapwhich tracks monkeypox cases by state, as well as state and local Department of Health alerts.
Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but the CDC says researchers are still trying to find out if the virus can be found in semen, vaginal fluids, and stool. Sexually active individuals should be open about their potential exposure to the virus, and ask your partner or partners to do the same.
Pregnant women about to give birth A cesarean delivery is recommended To reduce the risk of transmission of the virus to newborns. In addition, there have been reports of premature deliveries, pregnancy loss and stillbirth.
What do I do if I have symptoms?
Whether you are actively experiencing symptoms or think you have been in contact with a potential vector, the first step is to isolate yourself to prevent the spread of the virus. Next, contact your health care provider who will determine if you should have the test.
However, taking the test can be easier said than done. Scientists told NPR The outbreak in the United States is greater than the number of official cases, and one of them described the test case as “bad.”
The WHO advises People should self-isolate for three weeks of their time Believed them They may have had limited contact with others while waiting for test results.
Your health care provider will explain what to do if you test positive for monkeypox. According to the World Health Organization, the virus should take its course, and symptoms should go away on their own within two to four weeks without the need for treatment.
If you have warning symptoms, Here are some tips from the World Health Organization:
- Avoid scratching your skin
- Keep skin dry and exposed
- Clean the skin with sterile water or disinfectants
- Take a warm bath with baking soda or Epsom salts for lesions on the body
- For lesions in the mouth, use a salt water rinse as you would for mouth sores
If you live in a shared home, isolate your room and use a designated bathroom if possible. Use separate eating utensils, towels and electronicsAnd the And you wash your clothes yourself. Open windows whenever possible to get good ventilation, but avoid sweeping and vacuuming, as they can disturb virus particles on floors and lead to further infection.
What about vaccinations?
Holly Adams / Getty Images
The United States uses two types of smallpox vaccine to fight monkeypox as previous data indicate that these vaccines can be 85% effective against this virus as well. In the current outbreak, The Center for Disease Control says There are no data available on the effectiveness of either vaccine.
The CDC says that those who have been exposed to monkeypox but have not had it smallpox vaccine In three years you should get one sooner rather than later. The agency recommends vaccinating individuals within four days of exposure and no later than two weeks to reduce symptoms.
Vaccines can have side effects These include mild fever, fatigue and swollen glands, as well as redness and itching in the vaccination site.
Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of one vaccine – and more is expected in The coming weeks and months The other one should not be taken by individuals with certain skin conditions, those with weakened immune systems and people who are pregnant.
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