There is at least 18 cases from monkeypox in the United States in nine different states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country confirmed it first case from smallpox in mid-May, joining the list of other countries that do not usually report cases of the disease that are not directly related to travel to a country where smallpox is endemic.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by an orthopoxvirus and the virus that causes it belongs to the same family as the viruses that cause smallpox and swine fever. Monkeypox is endemic in West and Central Africa, and reports of it are rare in the United States, but not unheard of. (There were two reported cases last year and 47 cases in 2003 in an outbreak involving domestic prairie dogs.)

But health officials are monitoring new groups of cases of monkeypox in countries that do not usually report the disease, including several European countries, Canada and Australia, because they suggest spreading to the community.

“With the number of cases diagnosed in other countries, it was only a matter of time before there was a case in the United States,” said Dr. Amesh Adalya, an infectious disease expert and senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Adaja said scientists are trying to “understand what is happening epidemiologically” to explain why small outbreaks look different from other outbreaks outside Africa, where most cases are concentrated.

“I think it’s something that needs to be monitored and seen how widespread it can be, but there’s no reason to worry or panic about any of it,” Adalya said. Monkeypox is not new, he added, and we already have some tools to stop the spread, including smallpox vaccines.

Here’s what we know.

Monkeypox got its name because it was first discovered in monkeys that were kept for testing.

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What is monkeypox? How hard is it?

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that means it is transmitted from animals to humans. It is caused by an orthopoxvirus that also causes smallpox, although smallpox is considered more clinically severe than monkeypox.

There is two “stakes” of the monkeypox virus, according to the World Health Organization, including the West African log and the Congo Basin. The West African strain that has been identified in recent cases, according to a May 26 report presentation from the WHO, there is a mortality rate below 1%. According to the World Health Organization, the Congo or Central African basin has a higher mortality rate of up to 10%.

Monkeypox was first discovered in the 1950s in colonies of monkeys that have been studied, According to the CDCbut it is was also found in squirrels, rats and other animals. The first human case was discovered in 1970.

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox spreads among people mainly through close contact with respiratory droplets, according to the CDC, but can also spread through broken skin or mucous membranes (such as in the eyes or mouth). Contact with body fluids, including fluid or material in lesions or measles, usually develops in someone with monkeypox. “Close” in close contact is a key element in the transmission of monkeypox.

“It’s not a situation where if you walk past someone at a grocery store, they’re at risk for monkeypox,” said Dr. Jennifer McQueston, deputy director of the Department of Pathogens and Pathology. CDC media briefing.

Many of the recent cases of monkeypox investigated around the world have been in men who have sex with men, suggesting that there is currently a link between sexual contact and transmission of monkeypox. The close contact you have with a sexual partner, including contact with his sheets, can expose you to monkeypox if the other person has symptoms.

Due to the fact that there are many recent cases of monkeypox in Europe leads to lesions in the genital area and resemble symptoms of sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, you should ask to be evaluated if you have an unexplained genital rash, said Dr. John Brooks, an epidemiologist in the HIV / AIDS Prevention Department, at a CDC briefing. media.

Monkeypox versus smallpox: is monkeypox contagious?

The symptoms of monkeypox in humans are similar (but milder than) smallpoxwhich the WHO declared eliminated in 1980.

Usually a monkeypox infection begins with flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, intense headache, fever and swollen lymph nodes. Within one to three days of developing a fever, according to the CDC, a rash usually develops (historically, it begins on the face before it spreads, but this is not always the case). Lesions from rash or monkeypox can be flat or raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, and eventually they dry up and fall off.

The disease usually lasts two to four weeks. The incubation period varies from five to 21 days, according to the CDC.

Importantly, Adalja said: “Smallpox is not contagious during the incubation period, so it does not have the ability to spread in the way that some viruses such as influenza or SARS-CoV-2 can.

Monkeypox lesions filled with pus

Monkeypox lesions go through a series of stages before accumulation, according to the CDC. The monkey rash traditionally starts on the face before spreading to other parts of the body, the lesions can appear all over the body or only in the genital area, according to health signal from the CDC.

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Is there a vaccine against monkeypox?

Yes. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved JYNNEOS for prevention of monkeypox as well as smallpox. Because smallpox is so closely linked to smallpox, smallpox vaccines are also effective against smallpox. In addition to JYNNEOS, the United States has another smallpox vaccine, ACAM2000, a vaccine that is likely to be used only in emergencies or in people in high risk from monkeypox.

According to the WHO, smallpox vaccination has been shown to be around 85% effective to prevent monkeypox.

But smallpox vaccines have not been given to the general public since the early 1970s in the United States, according to the CDC. Therefore, any spread or “cross-protection” of immunity against smallpox vaccines will be limited to the elderly, Who said.

In the United Kingdom, contacts with a higher risk of people with monkeypox have been vaccines offered. This type of targeted vaccination is what Adalja calls ‘ring vaccination’, in which health professionals isolate the infected person and vaccinate their close contacts to stop the spread. Antiviral drugs that work against smallpox would also have an effect on monkeypox, he said.

Dr Daniel Pastula, head of neuroinfectious diseases and associate professor of neurology, medicine and epidemiology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said the vaccine was used in people who had been exposed but still showed no symptoms of monkeypox. because the incubation period of the disease is so long.

“Basically, what you’re doing is boosting the immune system with the vaccine and getting the immune system to recognize the virus before the virus has a chance to grow,” Pastula said.

While health and laboratory specialists who work directly with monkeypox, smallpox vaccines (and even boosters) are recommended, the original smallpox vaccines are not available to the general public.

The big picture

It is useful to be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox, especially if more cases develop in the United States, according to Pastula, but there is no reason to panic.

“This shows the need for public health,” Pastula said. “As we saw with COVID, it is so important to have a stable public health system and to support our public health system.

It also draws attention to the wide variety of viruses we live with. All zoonotic diseases (incl COVID-19) have the potential to be serious, which is why monitoring them is so important, he said.

“I think that shows that there are a lot of potential threats from zoonoses – these are diseases that can jump from animals to humans,” Pastula said. This illustrates the need to monitor public health, he said, “but it also really shows that we need to be careful and conscious in our interactions with both wildlife and pets.”

This is also an evolving situation, he said, so the recommendations made by public health officials will change as information changes – the same goes for all diseases and new science.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified medical professional about any questions you may have about your medical condition or health goals.

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