What is monkeypox and how dangerous is it? The number of cases is on the rise worldwide

An image created during the investigation of the monkeypox outbreak that occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1996 to 1997 shows the arms and torso of a patient with skin lesions caused by monkeypox. May 18, 2022 CDC/Brian WJ Mahy/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

CDC | Brian W. J. Mahy | Reuters

Health authorities in Europe, the US and Australia are investigating a recent outbreak of monkeypox, a rare viral disease commonly found in Africa.

Germany on Friday announced its first case of the virus, becoming the latest European country to detect an outbreak along with the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Sweden.

USA and Australia their first cases were also confirmed this week as experts try to pinpoint the root cause of the recent surge.

While some cases have been associated with travel from Africa, more recent infections are thought to be distribution in the communityraising the risk of a wider outbreak.

United States Centers for Disease and Infection Control and UK health protection agency (UKHSA) said it was investigating a number of cases, including among individuals who self-identify as men who have sex with men, and urged gay and bisexual men in particular to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions.

In the UK alone, the number of cases has doubled since the first May 7. There are currently 20 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country, although there are fears that many more may go unnoticed.

People who show symptoms of the virus, including a rash and fever, are strongly advised to seek medical attention by contacting any clinic prior to visiting.

“These latest cases, together with reported cases across Europe, confirm our initial fears about the possible spread of monkeypox in our communities,” UKHSA Chief Medical Adviser Susan Hopkins said on Wednesday.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox re-emerged in Nigeria in 2017 after four decades without a single confirmed case. As of May 2022, there are 450 cases in the country.

Washington Post | Washington Post | Getty Images

Since then, sporadic cases have been reported in 10 African countries, including Nigeria, which had the largest documented outbreak since 2017. 172 suspects and 61 confirmed cases. Three-quarters were among men between the ages of 21 and 40.

Cases outside of Africa have historically been less common and tend to involve international travel or the importation of animals. Previous cases have been reported in Israel, the UK, Singapore and the US, which in 2003 81 cases associated with prairie dogs infected by imported animals.

How can you get monkeypox?

Monkeypox is spread when someone comes into close contact with another person, animal, or material that has been infected with the virus.

The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or through the eyes, nose, and mouth.

This 1971 CDC handout photo of a girl in Bondois, Liberia, shows lesions that look like monkeypox on her arm and leg.

CDC | Getty Images

Person-to-person transmission most often occurs by airborne dropletsalthough it usually requires prolonged personal contact. At the same time, transmission of infection from an animal to a person can occur through a bite or scratch.

Monkeypox is not generally considered a sexually transmitted disease, although it can be transmitted during sex.

What are the symptoms?

Initial symptoms monkeypox include fever, headaches, muscle pain, swelling and back pain.

Patients usually develop a rash one to three days after the onset of fever, often beginning on the face and spreading to other parts of the body such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

The rash, which can be intensely itchy, then goes through several stages before the legions writhe and fall off.

The infection usually lasts two to four weeks and usually goes away on its own.

What is the treatment?

There are currently no proven and safe treatments for monkeypox, although in most cases the disease is mild.

People who are suspected of having the virus may be are isolated in a negative pressure room – rooms used to isolate patients – and are monitored by healthcare professionals using personal protective equipment.

The palms of a monkeypox patient from Lodja, a city located in the Katako-Kombe health zone, are seen during a medical investigation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997.

CDC | Reuters

However, smallpox vaccines have proven to be largely effective in preventing the spread of the virus. Countries including UK and Spain are now offering a vaccine to those who have been exposed to infections to help reduce symptoms and limit spread.

How dangerous is it?

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