Monkeypox: What we know about rare viruses now that infection has been confirmed in England


A person in England has been diagnosed with the rare viral infection monkeypox.

The patient, one of just a handful of people in the UK known to have had the disease, is receiving specialist treatment at a London hospital.

The virus is mainly spread by wild animals in areas of West and Central Africa.

But what exactly is monkeypox and how dangerous is it to the public?

Where does monkey pox come from?

The World Health Organization (WHO) traced the disease to the tropical rainforests of central and western Africa and defined it as a viral zoonotic (ie, animal-to-human transmissible) disease similar to smallpox, which was itself eradicated in 1980.

The first recorded case of monkeypox was identified in 1970 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While it would originally have been transmitted to humans through contact with the blood or body fluids of contaminated primates (or rodents such as tree squirrels and Gambian rats), it is an infectious disease and is therefore much more likely to be transmitted by fellow humans who are suffering.

What are the symptoms?

The disease has an incubation period of six to 16 days. In the initial phase, patients initially suffer from fever, headaches, swelling, back pain, sore muscles and general listlessness.

Once the fever breaks, the sufferer’s body is faced with a rash, with a rash spreading across the face, followed by the rest of the body, most commonly the palms and soles of the feet.

The blemishes progress from lesions to crusted blisters, which can then take three weeks to heal and go away.

The virus can be difficult to diagnose without the help of laboratory analyzes due to its superficial resemblance to other diseases that cause rashes, such as chickenpox, measles, scabies, and syphilis.

How dangerous is it?

dr Colin Brown, director of clinical and emerging infections at the UK Health Security Agency, said monkeypox “does not spread easily between humans and the overall risk to the general public is very low”.

Although this strain of the orthopoxvirus is much milder than smallpox, deaths have been recorded, particularly among young people. The WHO puts the mortality rate at less than 10 percent.

The largest-ever outbreak in Nigeria in 2017 identified 172 suspected cases of monkeypox and reported 61 confirmed cases nationwide. 75 percent of those affected were male and between 21 and 40 years old.

No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available, but pre-existing smallpox has been shown to be 85% effective in controlling the disease.

Professor Jimmy Whitworth of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine stressed that while monkeypox is “usually mild… it is a sensible precaution for people who may have been exposed to these two recent cases to be made aware [in the UK] are tracked down and pursued”.

How many cases have been detected in the UK?

The UK is one of only a handful of countries outside of Africa to have been diagnosed with monkeypox.

The first four infections were reported in the UK in 2018 and 2019. There was a second outbreak in 2021 where three family members were diagnosed with the virus after a trip to Nigeria.

The latest case, reported by the UKHSA on Saturday, was also detected in a person who had visited Nigeria. The patient is being treated at the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust’s Infectious Diseases Unit. Her close contacts have been notified, but no other case has been confirmed yet. Monkeypox: What we know about rare viruses now that infection has been confirmed in England

Fry Electronics Team

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