Misinformation about monkeypox is spreading, experts warn – here’s what you need to know about the disease

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As monkeypox cases rise, public health experts and officials around the world are scrambling to contain the outbreak, but as scientists collect vital data, they are also challenged by the rapid spread of information. wrong about the virus. Here are some of the biggest questions about the disease, answered:

key facts

So what is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus, a less deadly and less transmissible relative of one of humanity’s biggest killers, variola, which causes smallpox.

It’s new? Unlike Covid, monkeypox is a well-known entity that has caused sporadic outbreaks in parts of Africa for decades, though they were largely ignored by the rest of the world.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox? Monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, chills and enlarged lymph nodes, and most people will develop a characteristic rash, although the extent of this can vary and doctors have reported symptoms that are milder or more localized to the genital and anorectal areas. than previously expected and some people have not had any symptoms.

How serious is it? Most people recover from the disease on their own within a few weeks, although the disease can be fatal and some patients have required hospital treatment to control symptoms, particularly extreme ones. pain caused by monkeypox injuries.

Where does monkeypox come from? Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, meaning it circulates naturally in wildlife and is only occasionally transmitted to humans, and despite its name, experts have not discovered the animal reservoir for the virus, although many believe that rodents are the most likely culprits.

So it has nothing to do with monkeys? Apart from the ability to infect them, monkeypox has almost nothing to do with monkeys, it was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in the 1950s, and the World Health Organization has emphasized that primates are not connected to the current outbreak.

How is monkeypox spread? Historically, people typically contracted monkeypox after exposure to infected animals, but the virus can also be spread among humans, primarily through close physical contact with an infected person or through contaminated items such as clothing or bedding. or by respiratory droplets produced when someone coughs, talks, or sneezes. .

What is driving the global outbreak? the oppressive most of those affected by the global outbreak are mens who have sex with men and data strongly suggests Sexual contact is the main mode of transmission, possibly through the sex itself—both oral and anal intercourse—rather than the skin-to-skin contact that accompanies sex.

Could monkeypox spread to other groups? The growing outbreak raised fears that the virus could establish itself in other populations, particularly women and children, but while there have been a small number of cases outside of men, there are no evidence of sustained transmission outside of sexual networks to justify anxiety surrounding the virus among most people, and experts believe the risk to other groups is low.

Aren’t we missing cases by focusing on men? The focus on gay and bisexual men, as well as the limitations of the initial tests, led to a groundswell of disinformation suggesting that the virus goes undiagnosed and spreads silently among women and kidsthough officials dispute this and they say they’re testing, they just don’t see a lot of positive tests.

Does monkeypox have a treatment? There is no proven treatment for monkeypox, but an antiviral drug developed for smallpox, tecovirimat, also known by the brand name Tpoxx, is available for some Monkeypox patients and scientists are testing whether it can help people recover from the disease faster.

Is there a vaccine? Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos, marketed as Imvanex in Europe and Imvanune in Canada, is the only vaccine specifically approved for use against monkeypox in the world, although there are no data on its efficacy and global supplies are very limited.

How can I get vaccinated? Vaccine shortages mean vaccines are difficult to access in most areas if they are available at all and most jurisdictions are targeting supplies to high-risk groups such as men or transgender people who have sex with men or male contacts. close contacts of people diagnosed with monkeypox, as well as changing the method injection to stretch supplies.

What about other vaccines? A live virus vaccine developed for use against smallpox, ACAM2000it can also be used to combat monkeypox and is in abundance, though officials have yet to implement it due to the risk of serious side effects and unsuitability for people with compromised immune systems, a notable drawback for a campaign aimed at a disproportionately affected group. for HIV.

Does my smallpox vaccine protect me against monkeypox? Many people will already have been vaccinated against smallpox as part of routine immunizations (the disease was eradicated in 1980), which could provide some protection against monkeypox, but this decreases over time and it is not clear whether the vaccine will protect against infection, although it might still protect against severe disease.

How to protect yourself? Officials recommend that all high-risk people get vaccinated — though it’s unclear how protective the shots will be and supplies are in short supply — and that gay and bisexual men limit risky behaviors related to sex, particularly by reducing number of sexual partners, especially anonymous or group. encounters, which the data suggest it’s already happening

key background

Experts have plenty of time feared monkeypox had the potential to one day spread and fill the void left by smallpox, although earlier outbreaks were generally limited and evidence suggested that the virus does not transmit easily between people. Its almost simultaneous appearance in several countries where it does not normally spread alarmed public health authorities and suggested that the virus had been spreading. unnoticed for some time, probably years. The scope, scale, geographic range, speed, and demographics set this outbreak apart from previous monkeypox outbreaks, which have generally been confined and self-limited. The stigma around both the name of the virus and the disease, which officials are struggling change the name, and the main group affected (men who have sex with men) has characterized the official response. The activists have beaten coy public health messages that sugarcoat the risks to gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men while exaggerating the risks faced by other groups, as well as the rampant risks disinformation on the virus and how it spreads.

big number

45,535. That’s the number of confirmed monkeypox cases around the world this year as of August 24. according to to the CDC. More than a third of these have been registered in the US, the country with the most confirmed cases by far (16,602), followed by Spain (6,284), Brazil (3,896), Germany (3,350) and the United Kingdom (3,207). So far, there have been 12 monkeypox deaths this year. Seven of them were in Nigeria (4), Central African Republic (2), and Ghana (1), countries that have historically reported monkeypox, and five were in Spain (2), India (1), Ecuador (1), and Brazil (1). ).

What to watch

Experts warn that it may be too late to prevent monkeypox from gaining a permanent foothold in countries like the US. The monkeypox virus is known to spread between various animals and it is possible that it could spread a wild animal populations and become established, the researchers said Forbes. This would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate the virus and the more it spreads between humans, the more probably the stage becomes. Scientists in France have also reported the first documented case of human-to-pet transmission, a dog whose owners had contracted the virus, which was not surprising, but highlighted the risk that the virus could circulate in animals.

what we don’t know

Whether monkeypox is sexually transmitted. Prior to this outbreak, experts did not believe that monkeypox could be sexually transmitted, and while it has been spreading primarily between sexual networks, this could be due to the close physical contact that accompanies sex. However, mounting data underscores the role of sex in transmission, and experts are also exploring reports that the virus has been detected in the semen of some patients. Dr. Ina Park, a professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, said Forbes “It’s certainly possible that monkeypox will persist and become the world’s new STI.” The virus “currently behaves primarily as an STI and will continue to be sexually transmitted in the future,” Park added, urging the US to expand the safety net of public sexual health clinics to address the problem.

Other readings

Monkeypox in Africa: the science the world ignored (Nature)

Monkeypox: Here’s how colleges are preparing for potential outbreaks as students return (Forbes)

Monkeypox vaccines: Here’s how many have been sent and where, as the White House declares a public health emergency (Forbes)

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