If you haven’t heard about monkeypox, then it’s probably a good thing. The rare but infectious disease was first reported in 1958 in cynomolgus monkeys in a lab. However, it wasn’t until a decade later when the first human case was reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the decades, stringent efforts helped contain the virus until 2017 when Nigeria saw an outbreak across its southeast and south regions. There were also cases in the US and the UK over the years, while Singapore became the fourth country globally, and the first in Asia to report monkeypox virus infection in humans.
This was in 2019 and the authorities were able to contain the spread by following extensive contact tracing and other effective measures.
While there haven’t been any cases since then, the disease severely affects children and often comes from rodents. And has become a topic of discussion in many Singapore mummy groups.
The reason to worry here is there is no monkeypox treatment as of today. That’s why you need to be aware of the monkeypox virus – symptoms, causes, treatment, and more.
Monkeypox Disease: How Did It Originate?
The virus was first discovered in 1958. It had infected a group of monkeys. Image courtesy: Pixabay
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a virus with a history of transmitting to humans from animals mainly in central and western Africa. A person can get infected when they come in close contact with infected animals such as rodents.
This disease causes skin redness and vesicles and small sacs filled with fluid that turns it into crusts.
In 1958, the Monkeypox virus had infected a group of monkeys that were the subject of research in Cameroon. The vector was African rodents such as mice.
The first reported case of human infection saw a nine-year-old boy in Congo catch the disease. He was initially suspected of being infected with smallpox, which later proved to be monkeypox.
How Does It Transmit To Humans?
The virus can spread to humans if they are bitten by an infected African rodent or have eaten improperly cooked meat containing the virus.
In Singapore’s first and only case of monkeypox, the patient reported having bush meat in Nigeria at a wedding before travelling to Singapore. The details revealed by the Ministry of Health suggest that this could have been a source of transmission of the monkeypox virus.
If you do come in contact with the virus, you need to stay in incubation between five and 21 days. The infectious nature of the virus makes others vulnerable as well.
Another possible way to contract the virus from one human to another by coming in close contact with infected respiratory tract secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or objects recently contaminated by patient fluids.
Monkeypox Disease: How To Identify The Symptoms
One of the major symptoms of monkeypox is skin rash and fever. Image courtesy: Wikipedia
The first symptoms of monkeypox diseases include fever, followed by a rash on the face. The symptoms follow up with headaches, muscle aches, back pain, chills, swollen lymph nodes and exhaustion. They stay for about two to four weeks.
Monkeypox infection in adults is usually mild and can heal itself. It is fatal in as many as one to 10 percent of people who get it. Plus, severe cases occur more commonly among children and are related to the extent of virus exposure, health condition and if there are any complications.
Monkeypox complications can include secondary infections like bronchopneumonia, inflammation of the brain, sepsis, encephalitis, and infection of the cornea with ensuing loss of vision.
Monkeypox Treatment And Vaccine
There is currently no specific treatment recommended for monkeypox. Vaccination against smallpox with the vaccinia vaccine is about 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox. However, at present, the original (first-generation) smallpox vaccines are no longer available to the general public.
As a result of which, people younger than 40 or 50 years of age (depending on the country) may be more susceptible to monkeypox. This is a result of the termination of routine smallpox vaccination worldwide after the eradication of smallpox.
Nevertheless, a newer vaccinia-based vaccine stands approved for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox in 2019. The challenge, however, is that it is not yet widely available in the public sector.
How To Prevent A Monkeypox Outbreak
In order to prevent the spread of the disease, the first and foremost thing that needs to be done is spread awareness.
The easiest way to detect a case is by monitoring body temperature. People who have a high fever should be monitored and evaluated if they have skin abnormalities or other symptoms.
Scientific studies are now underway to assess the feasibility and appropriateness of using the vaccinia vaccine for the prevention and control of monkeypox. In fact, there are some countries, that have or are developing, policies for use of vaccinia vaccine to prevent infection.
What Parents Need To Teach Their Child To Stay Safe From Monkeypox Infection:
Avoid contact with animals that could have the virus
Educate your child about the symptoms in infected animals such as runny nose, excessive tears, breathing difficulties and swollen lymph nodes and skin abnormalities.
Children should avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding that has been in contact with a sick animal.
Teach your child to practice good hygiene habits. For instance, washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
One should always wear a PPE kit when caring for infected patients including animals
How Infectious Is Monkeypox?
When Singapore reported its first case back in 2019, Executive Director of NCID Professor Leo Yee Sin said that the risk of monkeypox spreading within the community was low.
He further mentioned, “There is no evidence to date that human-to-human transmission alone can sustain monkeypox infections in the human population. On average, each infected person transmits the infection to less than one other person. This is much less infectious than the common flu.”
Contact tracing and isolation for three weeks can help curb the spread of monkeypox. So, while the chances of spreading the infection are low, it is important to stay aware and alert as there is no monkeypox treatment as of date.
Do make sure to read up on medical guidelines when travelling to other countries.