If you are the type that likes to keep up with world news, you may well have heard about monkeypox a little under a year ago. At this time, fears of an outbreak were widespread after more than 88 cases and six deaths were recorded in Nigeria. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “the first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in humans in other central and western African countries.” The initial outbreak in Nigeria has since risen to 113 recorded cases, and so far seven of those infected have since passed away.
This was until this autumn, when the UK saw its first ever cases of the virus – which is similar to that of smallpox, but not quite as deadly. This incident occurred when it was confirmed that two recent visitors to Nigeria had contracted the disease, following which a healthcare worker contracted the illness after treating one of the two patients.
So, what is monkeypox?
Monkeypox kills approximately 10% of those that are infected, and it can be an irritating and painful disease that causes a fever and a blistering rash, that can form all over the body. It would be understandable to assume that this is a disease that comes from monkeys, but in actual fact, while they can carry it and pass it on, rodents and squirrels are considered the biggest carriers of the disease – with the CDC confirming that “African rodent species are suspected to play a role in transmission”.
Monkeypox is far from being a new disease, with known cases going back as far as centuries ago. However, recent research shows that it appears to be resurfacing across Africa at this time – with the World Health Organization describing it as “endemic in villages of Central and West Africa”.
How can it spread?
Bites and scratches from infected wild animals are the sources of this disease, but once it has spread to a human, others can be infected through the air via coughs and sneezes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the disease does not spread easily between people.
According to the NHS, once somebody has been infected with the disease, they will initially suffer from fever symptoms for between 1 to 5 days, before a rash develops – usually on the face. That rash can then spread to other parts of the body, and other symptoms, such as headaches, muscle aches, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes, can be experienced.
Should we panic?
Although news of the disease is appearing in the media lately, medical professionals are keen to reiterate that the public should not be worried with regards to monkeypox. The transmission rate from person to person is very low; on average, an infected person will pass it on between 0 to 1 time, which means there is little chance for the disease to spread extensively.
However, if you do have concerns regarding being infected or have been in contact with someone that has been infected, we always recommend seeking the advice of a qualified health professional.