Now that for some it seems that SARS-CoV-2 has disappeared (it has not), another disease has put the health authorities in the United Kingdom on notice. It’s about the monkey pox. It is not a new pathology known since 1970 and each year causes thousands of infections in Africa. However, outside this continent it usually only causes very small outbreaks, in relation to the number of people affected. Instead, this time there are already seven cases, most unrelated, and community transmission is suspected. In addition, other countries are studying suspected cases. In Spain, for example, there are eight cases that have drawn the attention of the health authorities, although it has not yet been confirmed that it is monkeypox.
The first English case, announced on May 7thwas a man who had recently traveled to Nigeria, where monkeypox is very common. Therefore, it is logical to think that he contracted the disease there. However, the following two cases were related to each other, but not with the first patient. Besides, they had not traveled to Africa. The last four patients have also not recently been to this continent and they have nothing to do with the first three. The only common factor is that they are all gay or bisexual men, who have had sex with other men in the last few weeks. In fact, although they do not know each other, some of them could have common contacts in that sense.
All this worries the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)although from her have called for calm. It is necessary for the health authorities, as well as the patient care centers themselves, to be vigilant, but the risk does not seem high and the population must remain calm. However, it is requested homosexual people that they detect suspicious lesions on their skin to seek medical help as soon as possible.
What do we know about monkeypox?
Smallpox is the only human disease that has been totally eradicated so far. However, others relatives from that smallpox they are still active today. It is, for example, the case of the monkey pox. The symptoms are similar, although fortunately it is much less deadly.
Two exists types, that of West Africa and that of the Congo. The first is milder and is the one that is being detected in the United Kingdom. presents a mortality of about 1%, but it especially affects younger people, especially children. This is because there is some cross-response with the immunity generated by the smallpox vaccine. Since the disease it was considered eradicated in the 80s this vaccine began to be considered unnecessary and was withdrawn from vaccination schedules around the world. Therefore, people born after that time are not vaccinated. In addition, children have a more immature immune system and this exposes them even more to having monkeypox in a more severe form.
Regarding the incubation time, it seems that it is between 6 and 13 days. The symptoms then go through two phases. An initial, in which occurs fever, muscle and joint pain, tiredness, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. This could be confused with many other diseases. However, the second phase is much more specific, since they already begin itching and skin lesions smallpox characteristics. Luckily, in most cases all of this subsides completely within a few weeks.
Should we fear this outbreak?
It is not very well known what could have happened in the United Kingdom. Monkeypox is known as such because it was first detected in these primates in Africa. However, it is more commonly transmitted by little rodents.
Between humans it is more difficult for infections to occur, but not impossible. These are usually caused by contact with the lesions, blood or other fluids of the patients. Possibly that was what happened to the first patient from the United Kingdom, since he had traveled to Africa. There he was able to contact sick rats, mice, or humans. However, with the rest of the cases the track is lost.
It is not a sexually transmitted disease but it is true that during a sexual relationship there can be contact that leads to contagion. Refering to respiratory particulate transmissionas explained from Science Media Center could happen, but only in very close and very prolonged contact.
The last major outbreak outside of Africa occurred in the United States in 2003, when a group of infected prairie dogs began to be traded in this country as pets. they got infected 47 people.
Afterwards there have been very isolated outbreaks, of little more than a couple of cases. In fact, the UK already had one last year, but they only got infected health workers and people who had traveled to Africa.
It seems that this time the situation is more complex and that there could be community transmission. The health authorities ask not to panic, but they are putting all possible measures to monitor the situation. Monkeypox in the United Kingdom joins childhood hepatitis as the medical mysteries of this 2022. Hopefully both will have an answer soon.