India saw its first case of Monkeypox recently after the global outbreak, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Owing to growing cases worldwide, including areas where it has never occurred, it is vital to know more about Monkeypox and its spread. Is this disease marking the arrival of a new pandemic? Why is it not spreading as fast as COVID-19?
This blog focuses on comprehensively answering these questions.
What should one know about Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare condition caused by the Monkeypox virus that causes rash, and other monkeypox symptoms which last for 2 to 4 weeks. It is spread from an infected animal or human through direct skin-to-skin contact. It can also spread through items used by the infected. Though the death rates are low, they can lead to significant complications and may be fatal in people with weak immune systems. Isolation, hygiene and rest are effective ways to treat this condition.
In 1970, the first case of Monkeypox was identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most infections worldwide happen due to human-animal interactions in rural forest areas. The first outbreak outside Africa was in the US in the year 2003. Monkeypox belongs to the smallpox family, which has been eradicated now, though the vaccines and therapeutic measures for smallpox can be used for Monkeypox too.
Why is Monkeypox spreading now and not as fast as COVID-19?
It is identified that the Monkeypox virus can be passed directly from animals to people by coming into contact with their blood, bodily fluids, or sores. Respiratory secretions and contact with an infected person’s lesions or contaminated objects can all result in human-to-human transmission.
Monkeypox can spread through respiratory droplets, but unlike diseases such as COVID-19, it requires extended face-to-face contact. Usually, only close contacts of the infected individuals and healthcare professionals are more prone to acquiring the infection.
Studies also say that Monkeypox is less contagious than COVID-19; therefore, it is unlikely to cause a similar outbreak. Monkeypox is not a virus, but COVID-19 is, and we have available vaccines to tackle it. COVID-19 is a novel viral strain easily transmissible through the respiratory pathway, affects a vital organ (the lungs), and is fatal. Another reason could be the peculiar nature of Monkeypox. It becomes contagious after the symptoms appear. It gives a chance to stop it from spreading as the affected person can isolate. People may spread COVID-19 before they even realize they have it, which is one of the reasons why it spread so quickly.
This outbreak of monkeypox may be related to a loss of smallpox vaccination-induced immunity as smallpox vaccines were stopped once the disease was globally eradicated. Although it was always anticipated that vaccine immunity would reduce, it was not foreseen that the animal strain would take over. There is also a need for research to determine whether the COVID pandemic may have affected the immune system that made patients more vulnerable to other illnesses.
The WHO has urged studies to determine whether the virus has changed or whether the decline in smallpox vaccination rates is to blame.
How serious can Monkeypox get?
As already mentioned, Monkeypox is an infection that gets better on its own over weeks.
According to researchers, the latest outbreak of Monkeypox is believed to be caused by the West African strain of the disease. That is good news because this strain has a substantially lower death rate than the Congo Basin strain. Kids, pregnant women, or those with an immune deficiency may experience more severe sickness.
Is Monkeypox a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
A recent study in England shows that out of 528 people, 98 per cent of those infected were gay or bisexual men and 95 per cent of cases likely included sexual activity. But the WHO asserts that it is unknown if the infection is sexually transmitted.
The virus may spread during sex because of the increased skin-to-skin contact, and many infected persons report having lesions in the vaginal regions. However, more research needs to be done on this matter, and as of now, sex can be considered as one of the many ways in which people come in contact with body fluids, thus spreading the virus.
Preventive measures for Monkeypox.
The primary preventative method for Monkeypox involves increasing public knowledge regarding the risk factors and teaching those about the steps they can take to lessen virus exposure. A scientific evaluation of the viability and suitability of vaccination for the prevention and control of Monkeypox is now being conducted.
It is also significant to avoid unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those sick or dead, and their flesh, blood, and other byproducts. All items containing meat or its parts must also be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
There is an unusual aspect about this outbreak since many affected ones have not visited or returned from areas where this virus is often present and have not been in touch with any known infected animals. Additionally, compared to prior outbreaks, there appears to be a greater person-to-person spread.
Although these are all happening around, there is nothing to be excessively petrified about. It is vital to avoid jumping to conclusions from information from inauthentic sources on the internet, and fear-mongering, and it is important to avoid stigmatizing any community.