As of May 26, 23 countries where the virus is not endemic have reported a total of 257 cases of monkeypox while roughly 120 suspected cases are under investigation, confirmed the World Health Organization (WHO). In five African countries where monkeypox has seen an unprecedented rise, there have been 1,365 cases and 69 deaths due to the monkeypox virus so far.
According to the global health agency, the ongoing monkeypox outbreak poses a moderate risk to global public health considering that its cases are now getting reported concurrently in widely disparate geographical areas.
However, there are chances of the virus becoming a pathogen that can spread across people leading to a higher risk.
“The public health risk could become high if this virus exploits the opportunity to establish itself as a human pathogen and spreads to groups at higher risk of severe disease such as young children and immunosuppressed persons,’’ the WHO said in a statement. It added that since the smallpox vaccination happened more than 40 years ago, the growing global population is still vulnerable to the monkeypox virus.
Being cautious is the key
In such conditions, staying aware of the disease is recommended as the current low risk at present to individuals in the general public might not stay that way. Hence, “immediate action from countries is required to control further spread among groups at risk, prevent spread to the general population and avert the establishment of monkeypox as a clinical condition and public health problem in currently non-endemic countries,” WHO asserted in the statement.
Health workers are still at higher risk as they might not recognise monkeypox when an affected person comes in for care. “Due to the range of conditions that cause skin rashes and because clinical presentation may more often be atypical in this outbreak, it can be challenging to differentiate monkeypox solely based on the clinical presentation, particularly for cases with an atypical presentation.”
Nonetheless, the “widespread human-to-human transmission is already underway” and the scale of the outbreak that the virus is causing is largely unknown.
History of monkeypox virus
For the unversed, monkeypox occurs from a virus transmitted to humans from animals and its symptoms are similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients. Monkeypox was initially discovered in monkeys in Statens Serum Institute, Copenhagen Denmark, in 1958 while the first human case was seen in a young child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.
The monkeypox virus causes flu-like symptoms including rashes, fever, headaches, swelling and back pain. It is typically transmitted between people with close contact through lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets or contaminated materials.
Its two types are the West African clade and the Congo Basin (Central African) clade. While the former causes severe disease with case fatality ratio (CFR) of around 10 per cent, the latter has a lower overall lower CFR of around 1 percent.