While the world is combating the COVID-19 pandemic, news about the detection of monkeypox infection in the UK induced air of chatter among people across the world. So what is monkeypox and how dangerous is it? A rare zoonotic viral disease caused by the monkeypox virus belonging to the genus Orthopoxvirus in the Poxviridae family, monkeypox is a contagious disease and can be transmitted through physical contact. It is mostly found in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa. However, a host can carry it to other regions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Up to a tenth of persons ill with monkeypox may die, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.”

The UK reported two cases

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that one laboratory-confirmed case of monkeypox was reported to the WHO on May 25, 2021, by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The patient was a resident and worker in Delta State, Nigeria and landed in the UK on 8 May 2021. Due to COVID-19 regulations, the patient was placed in quarantine with his family upon arrival in the United Kingdom. The patient had a rash on the 10th of May, which started on the face. The patient stayed in self-isolation for another 10 days before seeking medical help for symptom alleviation. After being admitted to a referral hospital on May 23, the Public Health England Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory received skin lesion samples on 24 May.  On May 25, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) proved the West African group of monkeypox viral infection. A family member who had been quarantined with the patient acquired lesions on 29 May that were clinically consistent with monkeypox and was promptly separated in a suitable facility. On May 31, monkeypox was verified. Both patients are doing well and are on recovery.

Monkeypox – Symptoms and transmission

The incubation period of monkeypox may range from 6-13 days to 5-21 days. The symptoms of infection are exhibited in two stages, that is, invasion period and skin eruptions. The second stage of skin eruptions causes lesions in the form of macules, papules, vesicles, pustules, and scabs.
The common symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • Head, muscle, and backaches
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Monkeypox is a contagious infection and its transmission can take place through physical contact with the contaminated human, animal, or material. Some potential monkeypox virus-host animals identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) includes dormice, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, rope squirrels, and primates.

Monkeypox – Diagnosis and treatment

The samples of the infected are sent for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for clinical diagnosis of monkeypox. The recent health history of the patient is also analysed. According to CDC, “There is no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox virus infection. For purposes of controlling a monkeypox outbreak in the United States, smallpox vaccine, antivirals, and vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) can be used.”

Prevention of monkeypox

The preventive measures for monkeypox are as follows:

  1. The first step towards prevention is spreading awareness about the infection.
  2. As it is a contagious disease, precautionary measures including hygiene, distancing and isolation by healthcare professionals, caregivers, and people who exhibit symptoms or have come in contact with a patient must be practised.
  3. Travel regulations must be imposed by authorities and must be followed by people travelling to certain countries and places that may be at risk.
  4. Contact with sick animals must be avoided.
  5. As animals can be a host, non-vegetarian foods must not be consumed raw, undercooked, or uncleaned.