Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals and between humans) with symptoms like those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe. Human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968. Since then, most cases have been reported from rural, rainforest regions of the Congo Basin, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and human cases have increasingly been reported from across central and west Africa.
- Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication program also provided protection against monkeypox. Newer vaccines have been developed of which one has been approved for prevention of monkeypox
- Monkeypox is caused by monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae.
- Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases can occur. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3–6%.
- Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.
- Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.
- Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of central and west Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions.
- An antiviral agent developed for the treatment of smallpox has also been licensed for the treatment of monkeypox.
- The clinical presentation of monkeypox resembles that of smallpox, a related orthopoxvirus infection which was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. Monkeypox is less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness.
- Monkeypox typically presents clinically with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications.
Natural host of monkeypox virus
Various animal species have been identified as susceptible to monkeypox virus. This includes monkeys, anteaters, dogs, squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species. Uncertainty remains on the natural history of monkeypox virus and further studies are needed to identify the exact reservoir(s) and how virus circulation is maintained in nature.
What are the symptoms of someone with Monkey pox?
The incubation period (interval from infection to onset of symptoms) of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.
The infection can be divided into two periods:
- the invasion period (lasts between 0–5 days) characterized by fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy (swelling of the lymph nodes), back pain, myalgia (muscle aches), intense asthenia (lack of energy) and respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, cough and nasal congestion). Lymphadenopathy is a distinctive feature of monkeypox compared to other diseases that may initially appear similar (chickenpox, measles, smallpox)
- the skin eruption usually begins within 1–3 days of appearance of fever. The rash tends to be more concentrated on the face and extremities rather than on the trunk. It affects the face (in 95% of cases), and palms of the hands and soles of the feet (in 75% of cases). Also affected are oral mucous membranes (in 70% of cases), genitalia (30%), and conjunctivae (20%), as well as the cornea. The rash evolves sequentially from macules (lesions with a flat base) to papules (slightly raised firm lesions), vesicles (lesions filled with clear fluid), pustules (lesions filled with yellowish fluid), and crusts which dry up and fall off. The number of lesions varies from a few to several thousand. In severe cases, lesions can coalesce until large sections of skin slough off.
Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases occur more commonly among children and are related to the extent of virus exposure, patient health status and nature of complications. Underlying immune deficiencies may lead to worse outcomes.
Although vaccination against smallpox was protective in the past, today persons younger than 40 to 50 years of age (depending on the country) may be more susceptible to monkeypox due to cessation of smallpox vaccination campaigns globally after eradication of the disease. Complications of monkeypox
can include secondary infections, bronchopneumonia, sepsis, encephalitis, and infection of the cornea with ensuing loss of vision. The extent to which asymptomatic infection may occur is unknown.
The case fatality ratio of monkeypox has historically ranged from 0 to 11 % in the general populationand has been higher among young children. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3–6%.
Raising awareness of risk factors and educating people about the measures they can take to reduce exposure to the virus is the main prevention strategy for monkeypox. Scientific studies are now underway to assess the feasibility and appropriateness of vaccination for the prevention and control of monkeypox. Some countries have, or are developing, policies to offer vaccine to persons who may be at risk such as laboratory personnel, rapid response teams and health workers.