A handful of cases of monkeypox have now been documented or are suspected in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.
Because the disease is usually found in west and central Africa, and only very rarely moves beyond, the breakouts are causing concern.
Here’s what scientists have discovered thus far.
The virus that causes monkeypox causes fever and a unique bumpy rash. Although it is usually moderate, there are two primary strains: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with up to 10% mortality – and the West African strain, which has a fatality rate of less than 1%. The West African strain has been recorded in the UK the least.
“There have been very few examples exported in the past. It had only happened eight times before this year, according to Jimmy Whitworth, an international public health professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who described it as “very rare.” “.
Five confirmed cases have been reported in Portugal, and Spain is evaluating 23 possible cases. Neither country has previously recorded any incidents.
The virus spreads by close contact, both from animal hosts and, less frequently, from people. Although rodents are now thought to be the main source of transmission, it was first discovered in monkeys in 1958, hence the name.
Experts are baffled by this time’s transmission because a lot of the cases in the United Kingdom – nine as of May 18 – have no known connections. The first instance, announced on May 6, had only recently visited Nigeria.
As a result, doctors have cautioned that if instances go unreported, the disease will spread further.
The UK Health Security Agency’s advisory also stated that the latest instances were primarily among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual, or having sex with men, and warned such individuals to be on the lookout.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that scientists will sequencing the virus to discover if they are linked.
Increased travel once COVID limitations are loosened is one possible explanation for the rise in instances.
“My working theory is that there’s a lot of it in west and central Africa, that travel has restarted, and that’s why we’re seeing more instances,” Whitworth explained.
Monkeypox, which is related to smallpox and causes less devastating sickness, has virologists on high alert.
In 1980, smallpox was eradicated by vaccination, and the vaccine has since been phased out. According to Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA in California, it also protects against monkeypox, therefore the end of vaccination campaigns has resulted in an increase in monkeypox cases.
Experts, on the other hand, cautioned people not to panic.
“This isn’t going to generate a statewide epidemic as COVID did,” Whitworth said, “but it is a severe outbreak of a terrible disease that we should treat seriously.”