The World Health Organization (WHO) announces 100 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox in Europe. Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that may transfer from animals to humans. Cases have also been documented in North America and Australia. None of these countries, however, are endemic to the disease. In 1970, a young boy from Congo-Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), became the first human case of monkeypox. At different times, similar monkeypox cases were reported in numerous countries in Africa. Among them are the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo-Kinshasa, Liberia, Gabon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Congo-Brazzaville.
The first recent case was reported from the United Kingdom on May 7th, in the first week of May. The patient in issue, however, is thought to have contracted the sickness in Nigeria. Monkeypox is supposed to have originated in the tropical rainforests of West and Central Africa. They are unaware, however, of the exact source of the monkeypox virus, or what is known as the “natural reservoir.”
Epidemiologists are concerned, though, since there have already been 20 instances of monkeypox in the UK. Meanwhile, monkeypox cases have been confirmed by public health authorities in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, and Israel.
One might ask why viral infections like Covid-19 and, more recently, monkeypox can spread so quickly in Western countries. It might be because westerners travel more frequently, or because they are more aware of new viruses and have better diagnostic capabilities to detect them as soon as they occur. There is cause to be concerned, as the degree of readiness in this region of the world for any new virus is woefully inadequate. So, should we be concerned? Yes, we should be worried, but not to the point of panic. The majority of cases were minor and could be resolved in two to four weeks.
The virus can enter the body through broken skin, eyes, nose, mouth, and respiratory tracts. However, following prolonged human-to-human contact, the virus must spread by respiratory droplets. Animal bites and scratches are two ways for the virus to enter the human body.
Though researchers do not believe monkeypox would cause another pandemic like Covid 19, a large outbreak cannot be completely ruled out. Monkeypox is a less virulent relative of small pox and belongs to the Orthopoxvirus subgroup of the Poxviridae viral family. The variola virus (the infamous small pox pathogen), the vaccina virus (used to manufacture small pox vaccine), and the cow pox virus are all members of this genus.
Surprisingly, the monkeypox virus was found to be 85 percent resistant to the small pox vaccine.
Because the virus transmits from infected animals to people and from people to people in close proximity, such contacts should be avoided. And, as a result of the recent Covid-19 experience, the locals are already prepared to cope with the new virus if monkeypox ever makes its way to the country.