What you need to know about monkeypox disease

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Dr. Charles-Davies answers frequently asked questions on monkeypox disease

You must have heard about the recent outbreak of monkeypox in Bayelsa. A question that most likely popped up in your mind was: “What on earth is monkeypox?”

Well, as the name suggests, it was first discovered among some isolated monkeys in Denmark in 1958. It was not known to affect humans until 1970 when a 9 year old boy was discovered to have monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, there have been a few outbreaks mainly in West and Central Africa.

Is monkeypox virus deadly?

Yes, it can be deadly. Although not as deadly as smallpox and definitely not as deadly as Ebola.

Monkeypox kills less than 10% of people who contract it. The most common form of smallpox killed about 30% of people who had it, with up to 80% of people infected developing serious scars, especially on their faces. The average risk of death from ebola among those infected was higher than 50% in the last outbreak in West Africa.

Even though it is far less deadly when compared to smallpox and Ebola, it is important to know it’s signs, symptoms and how it is prevented.

What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox?

After a person is infected by monkeypox, it takes about 7-14 days for any symptoms or signs to show.

The first features of this disease are usually non-specific. Here are some of the signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Intense headache
  • Body Weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Back pain
  • Swelling of lymph nodes

1-3 days after these symptoms start, a rash develops, usually around the face. It then spreads to other parts of the body.

The illness usually lasts 2-4 weeks.

Monkeypox transmission

The primary method of transmission in human outbreaks is from infected animals. Monkeypox has been isolated in animals like:

  • Squirrels
  • Rats
  • Monkeys

It is common in rural populations where infected animals can be hunted, killed and eaten. Close contact with an infected animal can lead to the human spread of this virus.

Monkeypox can also be transmitted from person-to-person. This method of transmission is less common than transmission from infected animals.

It can be spread by:

  • Contact with blood, body fluids and rash of an infected person
  • Close contact with respiratory droplets like cough and sneezes.
  • Close contact with clothes and linen used by infected persons.

How is it treated and prevented?

There is no specific medication for monkeypox virus. However, people often recover fully from treatment of its symptoms.

There is also no available vaccine for it.

It can be prevented by avoiding close contact with infected animals and persons.

Also, especially during outbreaks like this, it is advisable to properly cook animal meat before eating as this usually kills the virus.

Health workers can also prevent being infected by the use of gloves and other personal protective equipment.

Even though not as deadly as smallpox or Ebola, it is important to understand how monkeypox is spread and prevented, especially as there is an ongoing outbreak in Bayelsa.

You should not panic but try to avoid close contact with infected rodents and monkeys. Also ensure you eat adequately cooked meat.

Dr. Charles-Davies OA is a registered medical practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria and the founder of 25 Doctors, a website where you can ask a doctor questions online.

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