The World Health Organization (WHO) says it expects to discover more cases of monkeypox as surveillance expands in countries where the disease has yet to be identified.
Between May 13 and May 21, at least 92 laboratory-confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox were reported to the WHO from 12 countries where the virus is not endemic. In non-endemic countries, one case is considered an outbreak.
Eleven countries have reported cases of monkeypox since it was first discovered in 1970: Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.
By May 23, five more countries reported their first confirmed cases, bringing the total number of countries reporting outbreaks this year to 17.
To date, no associated deaths have been reported in those countries during the current outbreak.
The following countries have reported new confirmed cases of monkey pox so far this year:
May 13 – May 21
Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA.
May 22 – May 23
Austria, Denmark, Israel, Scotland and Switzerland.
Argentina’s health ministry said it had discovered a suspected case of monkey pox in Buenos Aires but was still conducting tests. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of monkeypox in Latin America.
What is monkey pox and what are the symptoms?
Monkeypox is a usually mild virus that causes both a fever and a bumpy rash. It is most commonly transmitted to humans from wild animals, but human transmission is also possible.
Human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is called monkey pox because it was first identified in monkey colonies held for research in 1958.
The virus is most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), monkey pox symptoms usually include:
- intense headache
- muscle strain
- low energy
- swollen lymph nodes
- rash or lesions
The rash tends to develop on the face first before spreading elsewhere on the body, including on the soles of the feet and palms. They can also be found on the mouth, genitals and eyes.
Symptoms usually last between two and four weeks, with most people recovering from the disease without treatment. Newborns, children, and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk for more severe symptoms and death from monkeypox.
The death rate from monkeypox historically ranged from 0 to 11 percent in the general population and was higher in young children. Lately, the death rate has been about 3 to 6 percent.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.
Monkeypox can spread from one person to another through close physical contact, including sexual contact.
The rash, bodily fluids, and scabs are particularly contagious. Clothing, bedding, towels or items such as eating utensils that are contaminated with the virus through contact with an infected person can also infect others.
Sores, lesions, or sores in the mouth can also be contagious, meaning the virus can spread through saliva. People who have close contact with someone who is contagious, including health professionals, family members and sexual partners, are therefore at greater risk of infection.
The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to their fetus, or from an infected parent to a child during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact.
It is not clear whether infected people whose symptoms are not yet visible can spread the disease.
In most cases, monkeypox symptoms go away on their own without the need for treatment.
For those who are infected, it is important to care for the rash or sores by letting them dry out if possible or covering them with a bandage to protect the area. Both infected and uninfected people should avoid touching sores.
Mouthwashes and eye drops can be used as long as cortisone-containing products are avoided. Vaccinia immunoglobulin (VIG) may be recommended for severe cases. An antiviral known as tecovirimat, or TPOXX, can also be used to treat monkeypox.
Although it causes a less serious disease, monkeypox belongs to the same family as smallpox.
People who have been vaccinated against smallpox probably have some protection against monkeypox infection. However, it is unlikely that younger people have been vaccinated against smallpox, as smallpox vaccination worldwide stopped after the infectious disease was eradicated worldwide in 1980.
There are several vaccines available for the prevention of smallpox that also provide some protection against monkeypox.
In 2019, a newer vaccine — MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex, or Jynneos — was approved for use against smallpox, although it’s not yet widely available.