WHO explains what monkeypox is, how it spreads, who is at risk and how to protect yourself

Given the urgency of suspected or confirmed cases of monkeypox or monkeypox that have appeared in countries where the disease does not usually occur, including Germany, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Sweden, The World Health Organization answered some questions about this disease and what steps can be taken to protect yourself.

What is monkeypox?

It is a disease caused by a virus, which is known as the monkeypox. It is a zoonotic viral disease, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It can also spread from person to person. Interestingly, the disease is so named because it was detected in several monkeys in a laboratory in 1958. However, Most of the animals that are susceptible to contracting the disease and then infecting people are rodents, such as Gambian giant rats, dormouse or prairie dogs.

Where is it typically found?

Monkeypox is commonly found in the rain forests of central and western Africa, where animals that can carry the virus live, and is endemic. On some occasions, it can also be found in people outside those African regions who could have been infected after visiting them.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually include fever, severe headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and skin rashes or lesions.

The rash usually begins on the first or third day of the onset of the fever. The lesions may be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, then crust over, dry up, and fall off. The number of injuries to a person varies from a few to several thousand. The rash tends to appear on the face, the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet. They can also be found in the mouth, genitals, and eyes.

Symptoms usually last two to four weeks and go away on their own without treatment. If you think your symptoms might be related to monkeypox, contact your doctor immediately. If you have had close contact with someone who has these symptoms or suspects that there is a possibility of being infected, notify your doctor.

Can people die from monkeypox?

In most cases, the symptoms of smallpox go away on their own within a few weeks, but in some people it can lead to medical complications and even death. Newborns, children, and people with immunodeficiencies may be at risk for more severe symptoms and death from the disease.

Complications of severe cases include skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye infections that can lead to vision loss. Between 3% and 6% of identified cases where monkeypox is endemic have resulted in deaths. Many of these cases are children or people who may have other health conditions. Note that these figures could be an overestimate because case counts in endemic countries are limited.

How is monkeypox transmitted from animals to humans?

This condition can be spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Animals that harbor this virus can include rodents or primates. The risk of contracting such disease from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are sick or dead (including contact with their flesh and blood). It is crucial to stress that any food containing meat or animal parts should be cooked, especially in countries where monkeypox is endemic.

How is it spread from person to person?

People who have the disease are contagious while they have symptoms (usually within the first two to four weeks). You can get this condition through physical contact with someone who has symptoms. Rashes, body fluids (such as fluids, pus, or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious. Contact with objects that have been in contact with the infected person such as clothing, bedding, towels or objects such as eating utensils can also represent a source of infection.

Ulcers, lesions or sores can also be infectious since the virus can be spread through saliva. Therefore, we will have a high risk of infection if we live with infected people in our house or if we do it with sexual partners. Also people who work in the health sector are more exposed.

The virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to the fetus through the placenta, or through contact of an infected parent with the child during or after delivery through skin-to-skin contact.

However, it is not clear whether people who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease.

Who is at risk of getting it?

Anyone who comes into physical contact with someone with symptoms or an infected animal is at increased risk of infection. People who have been vaccinated against smallpox are likely to have some protection against infection. In 1980 smallpox became the first human disease to be eradicated, so vaccination against this disease was stopped. Therefore, younger people are more likely to get it. However, people who have been vaccinated against smallpox should also take precautions to protect themselves and others.

More severe and life-threatening symptoms may be experienced by newborns, children, and people with underlying immunodeficiencies. Health workers are also at high risk of contagion due to prolonged exposure to the virus.

How can I protect myself and others?

You can reduce the risk of contagion by limiting contact with people who suspect they have the disease or are confirmed cases.

If you need to have physical contact with someone with this condition because they are a health care worker or live together, encourage the infected person to isolate themselves and cover any skin breaks if they can (for example, by wearing clothing over the rash). You will need to wear a medical mask when you are physically close to them, especially if they are coughing or have mouth sores. Avoid skin-to-skin contact and if you have any direct contact wear disposable gloves. Wear a mask if you have to touch the clothing or bedding of an infected person.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after coming into contact with the infected person, or with their clothing (including sheets and towels) or other items or surfaces that you have touched or touched. that may have come into contact with your rash or respiratory secretions (for example, utensils or dishes).

Wash the infected person’s clothing, towels, sheets, and eating utensils with warm water and detergent. Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces and dispose of contaminated waste (such as dressings) properly.

Can children get monkeypox?

Children can get it and are often more likely to have severe symptoms than teens and adults. The virus can also be transmitted from a woman to her fetus or newborn during birth or through physical contact.

What should I do if I suspect that I have been infected?

Contact your doctor immediately for advice, testing and medical care if you think you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is infected. If possible, isolate yourself and avoid close contact with other people. Wash your hands frequently and follow the steps listed above to protect others from contagion. Your health worker will take a sample for testing so you can get the right care.

Is there a vaccine?

There are several vaccines available for the prevention of smallpox that also provide some protection. A smallpox vaccine (MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex, or Jynneos) was recently developed and approved in 2019 for use in preventing monkeypox and is not yet widely available. The WHO is working with the manufacturer of the vaccine to improve its access. People who have been vaccinated against smallpox in the past will also have some protection.

Is there any treatment?

Symptoms often go away on their own without the need for treatment. It is important to care for the rash by letting it dry if possible or cover it with a moist bandage if necessary to protect the area. Avoid touching any sores in your mouth or eyes. Mouthwashes and eye drops can be used as long as cortisone-containing products are avoided. For severe cases, vaccinia immunoglobulin (VIG), an antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat, marketed as TPOXX) that was also approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January 2022, may be recommended.

Where in the world is there currently a higher risk?

Since 1970, human cases of monkeypox have been found in 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. South.

The cases that occur sporadically in non-endemic countries are from people who became infected traveling to endemic countries. One outbreak was caused by contact with imported animals to people with whom they lived.

As of May 2022, multiple cases of monkeypox were identified in several non-endemic countries. This is unusual in earlier patterns of the disease. The WHO is working with all affected countries to improve surveillance and provide guidance on how to stop the spread and how to care for those who are infected.

Is there a risk that it will turn into a bigger outbreak?

Monkeypox is generally not considered highly contagious because it requires close physical contact with someone who is contagious (for example, skin-to-skin). The risk to the public is low. WHO is responding to this outbreak as a high priority to prevent further spread; for many years monkeypox has been considered a priority pathogen. The cases we are currently seeing are not typical because there is no information on travel from endemic countries or animals exported from endemic countries. Identifying how the virus is spreading and protecting more people from becoming infected is a priority for the UN agency. Raising awareness of this new situation will help stop further transmission.

Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted infection?

The condition can be spread from one person to another through close physical contact, including sexual contact. However, it is currently unknown whether it can be spread through sexual transmission (for example, through semen or vaginal fluids). However, direct skin-to-skin contact with lesions during sexual activities can spread the virus.

Rashes can sometimes appear on the genitals and in the mouth, which probably contributes to transmission during sexual contact. Therefore, mouth-to-skin contact could cause transmission when there are lesions in one of these parts.

The rashes can also resemble some sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and syphilis. This may explain why several of the cases in the current outbreak have been identified among men seeking care at sexual health clinics.

The risk of becoming infected is not limited to sexually active people or men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who is contagious is at risk. Anyone who has symptoms that could be monkeypox should seek the advice of a health worker immediately.

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