February 5, 2023

What is it, what are its symptoms, how is it spread and is there a vaccine?

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(CNN) — The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the so-called “monkeypox” or “monkeypox” —monkeypox in English— a public health emergency of international concern. We explain what it is, what its symptoms are and how it spreads.

The natural reservoir of monkeypox is currently unknown. However, African rodents and primates such as monkeys can harbor the virus and infect people.

The monkeypox virus has been reported mostly from Central and West Africa and is a rare but dangerous infection similar to the now-eradicated smallpox virus. According to World Health Organizationmonkeypox continues to appear sporadically.

This is everything you need to know about monkeypox:

What are your symptoms?

Monkeypox usually has milder symptoms than smallpox. According to CDC, the disease begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, swollen lymph nodes—a symptom that smallpox does not have—and exhaustion. Up to three days after you have a fever, you may develop a rash on your face and body that progresses to crusty skin lesions.

The incubation period—that is, the time from when a person is infected until they have symptoms—for monkeypox is usually 7 to 14 days, but can range from 5 to 21 days, report the CDC. The illness usually lasts between 2 and 4 weeks.

People who may have symptoms of monkeypox, and those who have close contact with them, should contact their doctor if they have any unusual rashes or lesions, the CDC says.

“The infection can spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person; however, there is a very low risk of transmission to the general population,” reads a release from the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

According to the WHO, the fatality rate has varied during the different epidemics, but has been less than 10% in the documented events.

How is monkeypox spread?

Canada investigates cases of monkeypox in homosexuals

According to the WHOIn early cases, the monkeypox virus is transmitted through direct contact with blood, body fluids, skin lesions, or mucous membranes of animals that have been contaminated with the virus.

For its part, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC, for its acronym in English) explain that the virus enters the body through wounds in the skin although they are not visible, the respiratory tract or mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose or mouth.

When it comes to human-to-human transmission, the CDC notes that it can occur when:

  • A bite or scratch occurs
  • By improperly cooking meat from infected animals
  • In direct contact with body fluids or indirect contact with injured material
  • Through contaminated bedding

The WHO indicates that transmission occurs mainly by respiratory droplets after prolonged face-to-face contact with a person who has contracted the virus, “which exposes family members of active cases to a higher risk of infection.”

The infection can also be transmitted by inoculation or across the placenta. However, the WHO indicates that to date it has not been shown “that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain monkeypox virus infection in humans.”

It can also spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, usually in a closed environment, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC).

Is there a vaccine?

A recently approved vaccine for monkeypox exists but is not widely available, WHO reports in an update to information on the outbreak published on May 21.

The smallpox vaccine, however, has been shown to be 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, according to the agency, and “can contribute to a milder course of the disease,” added.

The downside is that, since the eradication of smallpox in 1979, this vaccine has not been widely available either, according to the organization.

The WHO states that the only way to reduce infections is to educate the population about the risk factors and how to reduce exposure. For example, reducing the risk of transmission from animals to people by avoiding any contact with rodents and primates in endemic regions and limiting direct exposure to blood and meat, and their thorough cooking.

In the case of person-to-person transmission, the WHO indicates that it is necessary to avoid contact with people infected with the virus, so the isolation of patients at home or in health centers is recommended.

With reporting from CNN’s John Bonifield, Michael Nedelman and Martin Goillandeau.

This article was originally published on May 31, 2022.



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