Health officials around the world are on high alert for the spread of monkeys, a rare viral disease that is most prevalent in West and Central Africa.
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The United Kingdom Health Agency (UKHSA) has identified 2 new cases of the disease, one in London and one in southeastern England, bringing the total to nine since May 6, when the outbreak was previously reported.
Five cases were also confirmed in Portugal and more than 20 are being investigated in Spain. In the United States, a case has been confirmed in the state of Massachusetts for a man who recently traveled to Canada, but it is not yet known if he is linked to the European explosion.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most recent cases have been reported mainly by gay, bisexual, and transgender (MSM) men.
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In Portugal, for example, all confirmed cases are for men, especially young people.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) insisted in a statement that “anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread the monkey by touching infected fluids, wounds or shared objects (such as clothing and bedding)“.
Why does the explosion put the authorities in a state of alertness?
Explosive explosions increase the alarm for a reason the disease the virus, which spreads through close contact and was first detected in monkeys, occurs mainly in West and Central Africaand only occasionally it spreads in other places.
“Historically, there have been very few cases exported. This happened just eight times before this year,” Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international health at the London School of Sanitation and Tropical Medicine, told Reuters news agency. describing the outbreak as “unusual”.
The spread of the disease at this time is surprising to experts, because several cases in the UK do not have a relationship known to each other, raise concern that the infection was transmitted through a community infection. Only the first case reported on May 6 was the one that traveled to Nigeria recently.
The virus is spread through close contact with UKHSA advising individuals, especially those who are gay, bisexual or MSM, to be vigilant with rashes or abnormal sores on any part of the body, especially genitals, and to contact the sexual health. in case of anxiety.
Monkeypox has never been described as a sexually transmitted disease.although it can be transmitted by direct contact during sex.
Most people recover within a few weeks.
“UKHSA is working closely with the NHS and other stakeholders to quickly investigate where and how recent monkey cases were obtained, including how they could be linked.”
“Viruses generally do not spread easily among people. The risk to the British population is still small.”
“These recent cases, along with case reports from countries across Europe, confirm our initial concern that monkeys could spread in our communities,” said Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s chief medical adviser.
“UKHSA has detected cases quickly so far and we are continuing to quickly investigate the source of this infection and raise awareness among health professionals,” he added.
“We urge gays and lesbians to be aware of rashes or abnormalities and to contact their sexual health services without delay if they are concerned. Please contact the clinic before your visit.”
What is a monkey and what are its symptoms?
The monkey causes a rash, which can be very irritating, which changes and goes through different stages before forming the crust – Photo: GETTY IMAGES / BBC
The monkey is a relative of smallpox.a disease that was eradicated in 1980, but it is not very contagious, causes mild symptoms and is very dangerous.
It usually lasts two to four weeks and symptoms may appear five to 21 days after infection.
Monkey symptoms usually begin with a combination of fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.
This latter symptom is what helps doctors differentiate between chickenpox and chickenpox or smallpox, according to the WHO.
Once the fever has passed, a rash may appear, which usually occurs one to three days later, usually from the face and then spread to other parts of the body, as well as the genitals.
The number of casualties can range from a few to thousands.
The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before it finally forms a crust, and then falls off.
Why is it called a monkey?
Monkeypox viruses belong to the genus orthopox virus of the family poxviridae. It was first discovered in 1958 when two smallpox-like disease outbreaks occurred in laboratory monkeys preserved for research, hence its name.
But monkeys may not be to blame, and the native origin of the monkey is still unknownalthough the WHO says rats are the most likely.
“In Africa, evidence of monkeypox virus infection has been found in many animals, including prawn squirrels, tree squirrels, mice hunted in Gambia, voles and various species of monkeys,” the WHO says.
There are two main types: the Congolese type, which is the worst – with up to 10% of deaths – and the West African type, which has a mortality rate of about 1% of cases. The British cases were reported to be of West African descent.
Where is the common monkey found?
The human monkey causes outbreaks in the rainforests of Central and West Africa and is rarely seen in Europe.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had the first recorded case of a monkey in 1970.
Since then, cases have been reported in 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.
The first monkey outbreak reported outside Africa was linked to the introduction of infected mammals in 2003 in the United States, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Recently, in 2018 and 2019, two travelers from the UK, one from Israel and one from Singapore, both with a history of travel to Nigeria, were diagnosed with the disease following a major outbreak in the country, according to the European Health Organization. European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).
How do monkeys become infected?
It is possible to become infected by biting or scratching an infected animal, eating wild meat, coming in direct contact with an infected person, or touching infected bedding or clothing.
The virus enters the body through sores on the skin, respiratory tract, or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).
Human-to-human transmission is believed to occur mainly through large respiratory droplets.which generally cannot travel more than a few meters, so long-term personal contact would be required.
“Recent cases suggest a new way to spread,” Neil Mabbott, a pathologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, told the AP news agency.
Keith Neal, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, raised the possibility that the infection may not be sexually transmitted, but only “intimate sexual relations.”
Monkey “is usually a mild, self-limiting disease and many people recover within a few weeks,” UKHSA said in a statement.
“It is important to emphasize that monkeys do not spread easily among humans and that the overall risk to the public is very low,” said Colin Brown, director of clinical and emerging diseases at the British Health Organization.
Deaths are higher among children and adolescents, and people with weakened immune systems are at risk of developing the most severe forms of the disease..
Monkeys during pregnancy can also cause complications such as congenital or reproductive diseases, the WHO warned Monday.
“Small cases of smallpox can go undiagnosed and pose a risk of transmission from person to person,” the UN agency said in a statement.
Is there a cure? What is the best way to control it?
Currently, there are no specific treatments for monkeys, and they usually go away on their own.
Common home-grown antibiotics can kill the monkeypox virus, according to the CDC.
The smallpox vaccine is believed to be very effective in preventing monkeysbut because smallpox was declared to be eradicated more than 40 years ago, first-generation smallpox vaccine is no longer available to the public.
The most recent vaccine developed by the Bavarian Nordic for the prevention of smallpox and monkeys has been approved in the European Union, the United States and Canada (under the trade names Imvanex, Jynneos and Imvamune), and antiviral drugs are also being developed.
One possible situation behind the increase in cases is increased travel as Covid-19 barriers are removed.
“My theory of working is that there is a lot of this in West and Central Africa, transport has started again and that is why we are seeing more cases,” Whitworth told Reuters.
Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at UCLA in California, reminded Reuters that when the smallpox epidemic was eradicated, the end of vaccination campaigns led to an increase in the incidence of the disease in areas where the disease had spread.
He added that a quick investigation of the new case was necessary, as “they may suggest a new method of transmission or mutation of the virus, but all of this must be decided.”
Experts urged people not to panic.
“This will not lead to a national catastrophe like Covid, but it is a serious outbreak of a serious disease – and we must take it seriously,” Whitworth concluded.