How to catch monkey pox?
Until it became a global epidemic, monkeypox was commonly spread by infected rodents – including mice, rats and squirrels – in West and Central Africa.
People can catch the disease—which comes from the same family as smallpox—if they are bitten by infected animals, touch their blood, bodily fluids, or scabs, or eat wild game or bushmeat.
The orthopox virus, which causes monkeypox, can enter the body through broken skin—even if it’s not visible—as well as through the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Although primarily spread by wild animals, it was known that monkey pox could be transmitted between humans. However, health chiefs claim it was very rare until the current outbreak.
The virus can spread from person to person if someone touches clothing or bedding used by an infected person or by direct contact with tell-tale scabies. The virus can also be spread by coughing and sneezing.
With the ongoing rise in cases, experts believe the virus is being transmitted through skin-to-skin contact during sex – although the exact mechanism has never been seen.
How deadly is it?
Monkeypox is usually mild, with most patients recovering within a few weeks without treatment.
Nevertheless, the disease Kills 10 percent of cases. But this high rate is thought to be partly due to a historic lack of testing that has meant more than a tenth of all known cases of infection have died.
However, the death rate with mild strains is closer to one in 100 – the same as when Covid first hit.
The West African version of the virus, which is milder than the Central African strain, is behind the current outbreak. No deaths have been reported as part of the ongoing outbreak.
How is it tested for?
Mumps can be difficult to diagnose as it is often confused with other infections such as chickenpox.
Monkeypox is confirmed by clinical assessment by a health professional and testing carried out at the UK’s specialist laboratory – UKHSA’s Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory.
Testing involves taking samples from a skin lesion, such as part of a scab, fluid from the lesion, or pieces of dry crust.
What are the symptoms?
It can take up to three weeks for patients infected with monkey pox to develop any symptoms.
Early symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue – meaning it could, in theory, be mistaken for other common illnesses.
But its most unusual feature is a rash that usually starts on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body, usually the arms and legs.
The rash changes and goes through various stages before finally forming a scab, which then falls off.
How long is someone contagious?
A person is contagious until their rash appears until all the scabs have fallen off and there is intact skin underneath.
Scabs may also contain infectious virus material.
The contagious period lasts for three weeks but can vary between individuals.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
The UK Health Protection Agency advises Britons to contact their sexual health clinic if they have blisters and have been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed monkey pox case or have been in West or Central Africa in the last three weeks.
Britons are being told to contact clinics ahead of their visit and to avoid contact with others until seen by a doctor.
Gay and bisexual men are asked to be especially alert to the symptoms because most cases have been found in men who have sex with men.
What is monkey pox?
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 after an outbreak of a pox-like disease in research monkeys.
The first human case was recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1970s, and infections have since been reported in many Central and West African countries.
Only a handful of cases have been reported outside of Africa and they were limited to people with travel links to the continent.
The UK, US, Israel and Singapore are the only countries to have detected the virus before May 2022.
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that kills one in ten of those infected but is not easily transmitted between humans. The tropical disease is endemic in parts of Africa and is known for its rare and unusual rashes, bumps and sores (file photo)
Nurses and doctors are advised to be ‘vigilant’ for patients who develop new rashes or scaly lesions (as above).
Is it related to chickenpox?
Despite causing a similar rash, chickenpox is not related to monkeypox.
This infection, usually in children, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
For comparison, monkey pox—like smallpox—is an orthopox virus. Because of this link, smallpox vaccines also provide protection against monkeypox.
Are young people more at risk?
Britons under the age of 50 may be more susceptible to monkey pox, according to the World Health Organisation.
This is because until 1971 children in the UK were routinely offered smallpox to protect against monkey pox.
WHO has also warned that the mortality rate is high among young children.
Does it spread easily like covid?
Leading experts stress that we will not see Covid-style levels of transmission in the monkey outbreak.
A World Health Organization report last year suggested the natural R rate of the virus – the number of people who would become infected if each patient were living normally when they got sick.
This is lower than the original Wuhan version of Covid and about a third of the R rate of the Indian ‘Delta’ strain.
But the actual rate is probably much lower because ‘specific symptoms greatly aid in its early detection and control,’ the team said, meaning cases are easier to detect and isolate.
Covid is mainly spread by droplets released when an infected person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes.
How is the UK managing the disaster?
MailOnline revealed that monkeypox patients and their close contacts, including NHS workers, have been offered the Imvenex smallpox vaccine.
This strategy, known as ring vaccination, involves covering and monitoring anyone around an infected person to create a buffer of immune individuals to limit the spread of the disease.
In addition, close contacts of confirmed monkey pox cases have been asked to stay at home for 21 days and avoid contact with children under 12, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women.
The government says unsafe direct contact or high-risk environmental contact includes living in the same household as someone with monkeypox, having sex with them or changing their bedding ‘without appropriate PPE’.
As with Covid, a person who comes within one meter of an infected person is classified as a contact with monkey pox.
This lower category of contact, which includes sitting next to a person with monkey pox on a plane, means a tracer will call the person every day for three weeks and advise them to stay off work for 21 days if their work involves babies or children. Immuno-suppressed colleagues.
The UK has stopped short of requiring people to be quarantined if they develop monkeypox by law, but ministers are considering a public health campaign to warn gay and bisexual men because of the number of cases in this group.
What if it continues to spread?
Experts told MailOnline that they could ‘see a role’ for a jab rollout targeting gay men in the UK if it is not brought under control soon.
Close contacts of known cases in the UK have already been offered Jab, which was originally designed for smallpox. The two herpes viruses are very similar.
A health source told MailOnline that ‘there will be a number of strategies we will look at’ if cases continue to rise.
Professor Kevin Fenton, London’s regional director of public health, said the rollout of the vaccine and treatment could be widened to more groups if the outbreak continues to grow in the capital.
He said there are ‘plans in place’ to have more antivirals if the outbreak continues.
In what other countries have cases been found?
Cases of monkey pox have been found in more than 40 countries, including the US, Spain and Italy.
The most cases have been found in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Canada and Germany.
There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work on monkeypox, including the drug Tecovirimate, which was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January.
Is there a vaccine for this?
The smallpox vaccine, called Imvenex in the UK and Geneos in the US, can protect against vaccination in monkeys because the viruses behind the disease are closely related.
Data shows it prevents around 85 per cent of cases, and has been used ‘off-label’ in the UK since 2018.
The vaccine, which costs £20 per dose, contains a modified vaccinia virus, which is similar to both smallpox and monkeypox, but does not cause disease in humans.
Because of its similarity to the pox virus, antibodies produced against this virus provide cross protection.
Is there any medicine to treat it?
There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that seem to work on monkeypox.
These include the drug Tecovirimate, which was approved in the EU for monkeypox in January.
Tecovirimat prevents the virus from leaving infected cells, preventing the virus from spreading within the body.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an injectable antiviral used to treat AIDS called cidofovir can be used to manage the infection.
It also works by inhibiting the growth of viruses.