PETALING JAYA: There has been a surge of monkeypox cases across several countries in Europe and North America, with the disease making headlines across the globe. The disease has historically been concentrated in the tropical rainforest and rural areas of Central and West Africa. While scientists are baffled by the current outbreak, they do not expect it to evolve into a pandemic like Covid-19 as the monkeypox virus does not spread as easily. FMT takes a closer look at the disease, what is behind the recent spread, and whether there is cause for concern.
What is monkeypox?
First identified in monkeys, the monkeypox virus is transmitted to humans through close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding. The World Health Organization says the usual symptoms of monkeypox are fever, rashes, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms last from two to four weeks, and while severe cases can occur, in recent times, the case fatality ratio for monkeypox has been around 3-6%. The disease is mainly known for its characteristic rashes that appear on the face, palms of hands and soles of feet, which can also sometimes spread to other body parts.
Who is at risk?
According to virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das of Universiti Sains Malaysia, smallpox vaccination had been proven to be effective against monkeypox as the viruses are closely related. However, smallpox vaccines were discontinued in the early 1970s after the disease was eradicated. Anyone younger than 50 years would be at risk as they probably had not received the smallpox vaccine.
Why is it spreading?
Kumitaa said the rise in cases could be a result of increased travel after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Alternatively, it could be that Covid-19 infections might have left some people susceptible to other types of diseases, including monkeypox. Another virologist, Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam of Monash University, said the discontinuation of smallpox vaccinations could have allowed the resurgence of monkeypox. Deforestation could also be a cause, by increasing the chances of humans coming in contact with infected animals.
Cause for concern?
Kumitaa said Malaysians should be cautious as there might be people travelling to affected countries,” she said. Vinod said monkeypox could spread to Malaysia if the infectivity rate in other countries was high, However, there already are several antiviral medicines that are effective in treating monkeypox “so it should not cause major chaos”. Kumitaa said people should avoid contact with wild animals, and there should be restrictions on animal trade. “After the first non-African monkeypox case in the early 2000s, restrictions were placed on importing rodents and non-human primates.”
Resources: Free Malaysia Today online news –
Date of Input: 28/03/2022 | Updated: 22/06/2022 | aslamiah
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