What it is, how it is spread and symptoms

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an international emergency over the current monkeypox outbreak. Spain, with more than 4,000 cases and two deaths, is, along with the United Kingdom and Germany, one of the countries where the most cases of monkeypox have been detected in Europe. The affected Spaniards have been located in 17 autonomous communities, with the highest number of cases found in Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia. Given this situation, the health alert has been activated, But the authorities emphasize that the risk of a new pandemic occurring is really low.

The main doubts that this disease may raise are answered below:

Where are you from?

Monkeypox, monkeypox or ‘monkeypox’ is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted between animals and humans.. The virus belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus, like smallpox. Despite its name, monkeys are not its main reservoir, although it was first identified in 1958 in a population of primates. Its origin is unknown, but it is believed to be transmitted through small rodents and squirrels in rainforests. Until now, the incidence has been localized in central and western Africa, where the disease is endemic and thousands of cases occur every year. Outside the African continent, before the current outbreak, cases have been documented in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore, but all of them were linked to imported cases or contact with animals from endemic areas.

They have been characterized two distinct phylogenetic lineages of the virus: that of central Africa, more serious and with more complications; and that of West Africa, which is less pathogenic. The new outbreak would correspond to this second lineage.

Where have cases been detected?

Currently, confirmed cases have been identified in very diverse countries., none of them endemic, in the first outbreak that occurs in several places at the same time and in which those infected are not linked to trips to Africa. Because it is a pathogen with limited spread, researchers are trying to find out what causes this geographical dispersion of cases.

How is it transmitted?

The monkeypox virus does not spread easily between people and the risk to the population is low. It can be transmitted through the respiratory route, but Due to the characteristics of most cases, everything points to contact with fluids. Its transmission takes place through contact with wounds, body fluids, droplets and contaminated material, such as bedding, and its incubation period is usually six to thirteen days, although it can go up to 21 days.

As the British health authorities and those of the Community of Madrid have detailed, the majority of their cases are men who have had homosexual relations, so they recommend these people to be attentive to any unusual rash or injury anywhere. of the body, especially in the genitals. In any case, they emphasize that it is not a sexually transmitted disease, nor does it exclusively affect a certain group.

“There is virtually no chance of monkeypox becoming an epidemic”

“We are talking about a disease that is much less contagious than COVID and smallpox. In Africa, infection generally occurs through contact with contaminated fluids or animals,” he explained on Canal 24 Horas. Francisco Javier Membrillospokesperson for the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (Seimc).

As detailed by this infectious disease specialist, “between people, contagion occurs if there is contact with those vesicles that come out, similar to those of chickenpox. If when these vesicles are ruptured, we touch the liquid, we can become infected, which is what seems to have been the mechanism in most of the cases we have.“. He has also clarified that there can be contagion through droplets, through the respiratory tract, “but it is difficult and it has to be very close contact.” “There is practically no possibility of it becoming an epidemic,” he reassured.

Is it a common disease?

Monkeypox is very rare, although the number of cases has increased in Africa in recent years. The reasons for this increase are not clear, but experts suggest that one of the main explanations is that traditional smallpox vaccination was stopped due to the eradication of the virus, and this vaccine offered cross-protection against monkeypox. very high. In addition, deforestation and greater mobility of people have also caused contact between humans and animals that carry the virus to increase. In Europe, it is the first time that a chain of transmission has occurred that is not linked to travel to areas of West and Central Africa.

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What are your symptoms?

monkeypox It causes symptoms very similar to those of smallpox, even milder, although it can also cause the death of the patient. The disease begins with headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, and, unlike smallpox, swollen lymph nodes. Between one and three days after the onset of fever, a rash occurs, which usually begins on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

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As in smallpox, The rash begins in the form of red spots, which end up turning into pustules. After several days, these pustules form a scab, which ends up falling off. Monkeypox usually lasts two to four weeks.

The researcher at the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) Margarita del Val points out that it is a “reasonably benign” ailment but causes “very large and striking lesions” on the skin.

What treatment do you have?

Monkeypox treatment focuses primarily on relieving symptoms, since there is no medication to deal with the infection. However, the traditional smallpox vaccine, which has not been administered for decades due to the eradication of the virus, has very high levels of efficacy. The Spanish health authorities are considering the purchase of these vaccines, which have also been improved and could be used to prevent monkeypox. In any case, they emphasize that there would not be a mass vaccination, but only close contacts.

The traditional vaccine, an ally against monkeypox

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