As a senior citizen in recent years, I am coming across new diseases and one such disease recently I have come to know is monkeypox. Taking an interest to know about the disease I have completed recently a certificate course on monkeypox titled, “Monkeypox: Introductory course for African outbreak contexts” under World Health Organisation (WHO). Based on my learning and information collected from the website (www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/monkeypox) I am presenting a few facts about monkeypox so that readers can get an idea in this regard. That is the article is based on secondary sources.
Monkeypox virus (MPXV) is an orthopoxvirus that causes human monkeypox (MPX), a viral disease with symptoms in humans similar to smallpox, including fever and rash. Although in the world smallpox was eradicated in 1980, monkeypox emerged as the most significant orthodox virus disease in humans. It has been observed that cases that occur sporadically are from rural areas of Central and West African countries, close to tropical rainforests, and has been increasingly appearing in urban areas. In regions, there is frequent human contact with infected animals. Humans can also acquire the disease through direct contact with cases of monkeypox but there is no evidence to date that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain a monkeypox outbreak in the human population. It is reported that monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks. Severe cases can occur. In recent times, the case fatality ratio is between 3 and 6 percent. Monkeypox typically presents clinically with fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications. Various animal species have been identified as susceptible to the monkeypox virus. This includes rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species. Uncertainty remains on the natural history of the monkeypox virus and further studies are needed to identify the exact reservoir(s) and how virus circulation is maintained in nature. It is pertinent to mention that 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. Since 1970, human cases of monkeypox have been reported in 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa was in the United States of America and was linked to contact with infected pet prairie dogs. These pets had been housed with Gambian pouched rats and dormice that had been imported into the country from Ghana. This outbreak led to over 70 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. Monkeypox has also been reported in travelers from Nigeria to Israel in September 2018, to the United Kingdom in September 2018, December 2019, May 2021, and May 2022, to Singapore in May 2019, and to the United States of America in July and November 2021. In May 2022, multiple cases of monkeypox were identified in several non-endemic countries. Studies are currently underway to further understand the epidemiology, sources of infection, and transmission patterns.
It is heartening to mention that vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme also provided protection against monkeypox. It may be mentioned here that vaccination against smallpox was demonstrated through several observational studies to be about 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox.