(The conversation) – On May 18, 2022. Massachusetts health officials and on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a single case of monkeypox in a patient who had recently traveled to Canada. There have also been cases reported in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Monkeypox is not a new disease. IN The first confirmed human case was in 1970, when the virus is isolated from a child suspected of having smallpox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Monkeypox is unlikely to cause a new pandemic, but with COVID-19 in the first place, the fear of a new big hearth is understandable. Although rare and usually mild, monkeypox can still potentially cause serious illness. Healthcare professionals are concerned that more cases will increase with increased travel.

I am a researcher who has worked at public health and medical laboratories more than three decades, especially in the field of animal diseases. What exactly is happening in the current epidemic and what does the history of monkeypox tell us?

Cousin of smallpox

Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to a subgroup of viruses in the Poxviridae family called Orthopoxvirus. This subgroup includes smallpox, vaccine and vaccinia viruses. While an animal reservoir for monkeypox virus is not known, African rodents are suspected to play a role in the show. The monkeypox virus has only been isolated twice from an animal in the wild. Diagnostic test for monkeypox currently only available in Laboratory Response Network laboratories in the United States and worldwide.

The name “monkeypox” comes from first documented cases of animal disease in 1958, when two outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for testing. However, the virus did not jump from monkeys to humans, nor are monkeys the main carriers of the disease.

Monkeypox belongs to the Poxviridae family of viruses, which includes smallpox. CDC / Cynthia C. Goldsmith


From the first reported case in humans, monkeypox was found several other Central and West African countries, with the majority of infections in the DRC. Cases outside Africa involve international travel or imports of animals, including in the United States and elsewhere.

IN first reported cases of monkeypox in the United States was in 2003 from an outbreak in Texas involving a shipment of animals from Ghana. There were also cases related to travel November and July 2021 in Maryland.

Because smallpox is closely linked to smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can provide protection against infection by both viruses. However, since smallpox was officially eradicated, routine smallpox vaccinations for the general population of the United States were stopped in 1972. Therefore, monkeypox was appear more and more in unvaccinated people.


The virus can be delivered by contact with an infected person or animal or contaminated surfaces. The virus usually enters the body through injured skin, inhalation or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth. Researchers believe that human-to-human transmission occurs mainly through the inhalation of large respiratory droplets, rather than direct contact with body fluids or indirect contact through clothing. The degree of human-to-human transmission of ape was limited.

Health professionals are concerned that the virus may currently spread unnoticed through transmission to the community, possibly through a new mechanism or route. Where and how infections occur is still being investigated.

Signs and symptoms

Once the virus enters the body, it begins replicate and distribute through the body through the bloodstream. Symptoms usually do not appear for one to two weeks after infection.

Monkeypox causes skin lesions similar to smallpox, but symptoms they are usually lighter than those of smallpox. Influenza-like symptoms are initially common, ranging from fever and headache to shortness of breath. One to 10 days later, a rash may appear on the limbs, head or torso, which eventually turns into blisters filled with pus. In general, symptoms usually last two to four weeks, while skin lesions usually form in 14 to 21 days.

While monkeypox is rare and not usually fatal, one version the disease kills about 10% of those infected. It is believed that the form of the virus that is currently circulating is milder, with a mortality rate below 1%.

Vaccines and treatments

Treatment of monkeypox is aimed primarily at relieving symptoms. According to the CDC, there are no treatments available to treat monkeypox infection. Because smallpox is closely linked to monkeypox, the smallpox vaccine can protect against both diseases.

Evidence suggests that the smallpox vaccine may help prevent monkeypox infections and reduce the severity of symptoms. A vaccine known as Imvamune or Imvanex is licensed in the United States to prevent monkeypox and smallpox.

Vaccination after exposure to the virus can also help reduce the chances of serious illness. Currently, the CDC recommends vaccination against smallpox only in people who have been or are likely to be exposed to monkeypox. Immunocompromised people are at high risk.


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