After UK and Europe, rare monkeypox case found in US: What you must know about the virus

After UK and Europe, rare monkeypox case found in US: What you must know about the virus

After UK and Europe, rare monkeypox case found in US: What you must know about the virus

After United Kingdom, the United States on Thursday reported its first case of monkeypox in a man from Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts health officials confirmed that the resident, who was now hospitalised, had recently travelled to Canada and officials said they are conducting contact tracing.

While this is America's first case of monkeypox this year, it’s not the first instance of the infection being found in the United States. Last November, a Maryland resident had contracted the virus after returning from Nigeria.

Earlier, the United Kingdom reported its first case of monkeypox on 6 May and since then the total number of people infected there has risen to nine. As per health officials, while the first case was found to have had a travel history to Nigeria, it wasn’t the same for the others.

Other cases of monkeypox has also been detected in Portugal and Spain, causing a concern for medical personnel.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same Orthopoxvirus genus that also includes smallpox-causing variola virus.

Monkeypox is a zoonosis, a disease that is transmitted from infected animals to humans.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox’, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that cases occur close to tropical rainforests inhabited by animals that carry the virus.

The infection has been detected in squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, and some species of monkeys.

What are the symptoms?

Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to smallpox, although they are less severe.

Initially the virus may cause fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

Similar to smallpox, a rash spreads to all over the body often starting from the face. According to the BBC, the rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

The virus can spread from person to person through close contact with an infected patient. The virus can also enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth.

It can also be spread by contact with infected animals such as monkeys, rats and squirrels, or by virus-contaminated objects, such as bedding and clothing.

“It is important to emphasise that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low,” Dr Colin Brown, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infections at the UKHSA said on Saturday.

Spread of monkeypox

Since the first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the infection has been reported in several other central and western African countries, including Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’lvoire, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.

The majority of infections are in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Cases of monkeypox outside of Africa have usually occurred due to international travel or imported animals. Monkeypox cases have been reported in Israel, the USA, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

What is the treatment?

Smallpox vaccination has been proven to be 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox, however, there is no treatment for monkeypox. The outbreaks are controlled by infection prevention.

With inputs from agencies

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