Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease: a disease that is transmitted from animals to humans.Monkeypox is caused by monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. Monkeypox primarily occurs in central and west Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests, and has been increasingly appearing in urban areas. Animal hosts include squirrels, Gambian poached rats, dormice, different species of monkeys and others.
Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks.Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus. Eating inadequately cooked meat and other animal products of infected animals is a possible risk factor. People living in or near forested areas may have indirect or low-level exposure to infected animals. Human to human transmission can occur through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects. 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.
Some common queries with answers
How does monkeypox spread from person to person?
People with monkeypox are infectious while they have symptoms (normally for between two and four weeks). You can catch monkeypox through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms.
Who is at risk of getting monkeypox infection?
Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who has symptoms of monkeypox, or with an infected animal are at highest risk of infection. Newborns, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox. Health workers are also at higher risk due to longer virus exposure.
How can I protect myself from monkeypox?
You can reduce your risk by limiting contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox. In case you are the one taking care of infected person, then please wear mask while doing so and regularly clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after contact with the person who are infected, their clothes, bed sheets, towels and other items or surfaces they have touched or that might have come into contact with their rash or respiratory secretions (e.g., utensils, dishes).
Is there a vaccine against monkeypox?
There are several vaccines available for prevention of smallpox that also provide some protection against monkeypox. A newer vaccine that was developed for smallpox (MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex or Jynneos) was approved in 2019 for use in preventing monkeypox and is not yet widely available.People, who have been vaccinated against smallpox in the past will also have some protection against monkeypox.
Is monkeypox treatable?
Treatment is supportive, as with most viral infections. Most human cases of monkeypox virus infection do not require any specific treatment and the disease resolves on its own. There are anti-viral drug that a clinician may consider to use for treatment of more severe cases of monkeypox on a case-by-case basis. Avoid touching any sores in the mouth or eyes. An antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox was also approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January 2022.
Can we die from monkeypox?
In most cases, the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks, but in some individuals, they can lead to medical complications and even death. Newborns, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.
How can monkeypox be prevented?
In non-endemic countries persons are most likely to be exposed to monkeypox through contact with an individual that is already sick with monkeypox. The spread of monkeypox can be interrupted by contact tracing for diagnosed persons and isolating any persons that develop the disease.
(The author is Assistant Professor, Community Medicine in AIIMS Jammu.)