Explained: Why monkeypox cases are rising? Can the virus lead to another pandemic?
New Delhi, May 19: United States became the latest country to detect a case of rare monkeypox virus. Apart from the US, the cases are rising in European countries- United Kingdomas, Spain and Portugal which detected over 40 suspected cases of monkeypox.
The outbreaks are raising alarm because the viral disease, which spreads through close contact and was first found in monkeys, mostly occurs in west and central Africa, and only very occasionally spreads elsewhere.
So, why are monkeypox cases on rise?
The transmission this time is puzzling experts, because a number of the cases in the United Kingdom - nine as of May 19 - have no known connection with each other. Only the first case reported on May 6 had recently travelled to Nigeria.
The latest outbreak are reported in gay or bisexual men, which officials say is 'highly suggestive of spread in sexual networks'. So, the experts believe monkeypox is likely to be a sexually transmissible virus.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that all of the new cases, three in London and one in the north east of England, self-identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (MSM).
There is no link to travel to a country where monkeypox is endemic, and exactly where and how they acquired their infections remains under "urgent investigation", including whether they have further links to each other, it said.
"The virus does not spread easily between people and the risk to the UK population is low. However, the most recent cases are in gay, bisexual and other MSM communities, and as the virus spreads through close contact, we are advising these groups to be alert to any unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body, especially their genitalia, and to contact a sexual health service if they have concerns," the UKHSA said.
Another likely scenario behind the increase in cases is increased travel as COVID restrictions are lifted.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare zoonotic viral disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. It produces pox-like lesions on the skin and is closely related to smallpox but is not nearly as deadly as smallpox was. As the name suggests, it was first identified in monkeys, and is mainly confined to West and Central Africa.
Is monkeypox fatal?
Monkeypox can kill up to one in ten people who get it but the new cases have the West African variant, which is deadly for around one in 100.
Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
Can the virus lead to another pandemic?
Any disease that circulates in animals and can be passed to people has potential to cause a new pandemic, if it mutates to become more deadly or more easily transmissible. Also, Monkeypox virus has no specific treatment nor specific vaccine licensed for use.