Prevalence of Monkeypox Cases:
The World Health Organization confirmed on May 21st that over 80 cases of the monkeypox virus had been detected in over 12 countries. These cases have been reported in several European countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Spain amongst others. There have also been reports of cases in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Israel.
According to reports, monkeypox is usually found in Central and Western African countries. The worrying aspect of this increase in cases is that most of these cases are being discovered in regions that are not typically known for monkeypox cases. Most of the reported cases have occurred in Europe with seemingly no history of recent travel to either Central or Western Africa.
The United States has reported two cases at the time of writing, with one in Massachusetts and another in New York City. Canada and Australia have a single case each. European countries have reported higher numbers of cases with the UK sitting at 20, Spain sitting at 30, and Portugal at 23.
WHO’s Europe Regional Director Hans Kluge is concerned with the timing of the monkeypox outbreak as it is summer, a season in which there is increased outdoor activity, parties, and music festivals. These events encourage human contact that can lead to the spread of the disease.
“This is the most important outbreak in the history of monkeypox in the Western Hemisphere,” said Anne Rimoin, a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health epidemiology professor.
“What we’re facing right now seems to be at least a subset of cases that don’t have any history of travel to one of those countries in Africa where the monkeypox virus naturally occurs, and also don’t report any exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox. So, what we’re seeing right now is unusual,” said Dr. Agam Rao, who is a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
Transmission of the Monkeypox Virus
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis, which is a virus that human beings contract from animals. The name comes from the fact that it was discovered in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958. Once human beings are infected, they can, in turn, spread it amongst themselves.
As mentioned before, the disease is typically found in Central and Western African regions that are located near tropical rainforests. While the disease is endemic in those areas, it can spread to other areas.
Human transmission of the disease takes place when there is physical contact, an exchange of bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, or contaminated material with an infected individual. According to reports, sexual contact is one of the easiest ways of contracting the virus. Signs and symptoms of the disease include a rash that starts as red marks and develops into pus-filled blisters, headaches, fever, and muscle pains. The symptoms last for 2-4 weeks and the fatality ratio sits between 3-6%.
Monkeypox falls into the same family of viruses like smallpox. However, the disease is less contagious and causes less severe illness than smallpox. There is no known treatment for monkeypox but the smallpox vaccine is as effective for the former.
Insights on the Monkeypox Virus
Monkeypox was discovered in a human being in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. The person infected was a nine-year-old boy. While the disease is commonly found in Central and Western Africa, it is of global public health importance as it can spread and be found anywhere in the world, with several instances of it being found in other nations.
The first cases of monkeypox detected outside Africa were discovered in the United States in 2003. These 70 cases were linked to contact with pet prairie dogs that had been housed with Gambian rats imported from Ghana.
The monkeypox coverage by certain news outlets has been criticized by the Foreign Press Africa office in Nairobi, Kenya, for the manner in which monkeypox cases in Europe and North America have been reported.
This is regarding the imaging that has been used by these news outlets. “As any other disease, it (monkeypox) can occur in any region in the world and afflict anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.
As such, we believe that no race or skin complexion should be the face of the disease,” the Foreign Press, Africa office said in a statement. “It is therefore disturbing for European and North American media outlets to use stock images bearing persons with dark/black and African skin complexion to depict an outbreak of the disease in the United Kingdom and North America…
We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege or immunity to other races,” the statement continued.