6 questions to better understand monkeypox

6 questions to better understand monkeypox

This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that the outbreak of smallpox of the monkeys registered, in official numbers, 50 thousand cases. Most of those infected are in North America and Europe, but the outbreak has already reached Brazil.

The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom, has reassured the population by showing that the signs are of a drop in numbers, proving that the monkeypox (another way of referring to the disease) is under control. In order to calm the population, we present some known facts about it. Check out!

1. What is monkeypox and how did it infect humans?

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The first record of smallpox in monkeys was made at a research center in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in 1958. These were monkeys that lived in captivity, but whose research suggests that they are not the real animal reservoir of the virus that causes the disease.

The first known major outbreak occurred in 2003, probably brought from Africa by infected animals housed with dogs that would have been sold as pets. The current strain of monkeypox, unlike previous cases, is being transmitted between humans and arose from several mutations.

2. How is monkeypox transmitted?

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According to information provided by the United States Disease Control and Prevention Agency, monkeypox has been transmitted through close and sustained physical contact. To date, about 99% of cases have been reported in men, with blacks and Latinos being most affected by the disease (54% of cases).

It is important to point out that, although the majority of cases have occurred among gay men, monkeypox is not a disease that affects specific groups, but all humans. There is no link between sexual orientation and the disease.

There is still no consensus on whether monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease or not, but there is enough data to say that it spreads mainly through sexual contact, through the exchange of body fluids and contact between injured skin.

3. What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

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According to a study published in the scientific journal New England Journal of Medicineconducted with more than 500 patients infected with monkeypox in 16 different countries, the classic symptom of the disease is skin rashes, which initially look similar to acne or blisters.

The period of infection is two to four weeks, during which time the lesions can progress to four stages: 1) flat or raised, 2) fluid-filled, 3) pus-filled, and finally, 4) crusting.

In the survey, 70% of the reported lesions reached the regions close to the genitals and anus. The mouth was also greatly affected. Otherwise, the symptoms are very similar to the flu: headache, fever and swollen glands.

4. Are there tests and treatments for monkeypox?

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There is a test capable of detecting monkeypox. This is PCR, the same one that became known during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the collection method for performing the exam is different. In the case of monkeypox, the test is based on the genetic material present in the skin lesions, a characteristic symptom of the disease.

Several samples from different parts of the body are collected, through the bubble hole and scraping with the cotton swab at the base. According to doctors, the best time to perform the test is in the bubble phase, as the secretions store the greatest amount of virus.

This, however, does not mean that monkeypox is undetectable at other stages, including healing. The test can be done on public and private networks.

5. Is the monkeypox vaccine available?

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Anyone who has been infected at some stage in life by human smallpox, possibly has immunity to monkeypox. Vaccination was applied in Brazil until 1979, and, since 1973, we have had an international certification for the eradication of the disease. Vaccines that have been used are based on the same product that exists for common smallpox. Some countries abroad are already applying it.

In Brazil, there is still no forecast of a mass immunization campaign. Those born up to 1979 (last year of application of the immunizer at health posts) who were vaccinated must be protected against monkeypox — the average range of contamination is below 38 years.

6. Can monkeypox become a new pandemic?

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Covid-19 has the world on alert. But despite the risk, at the moment (emphasis on this), infectologists think it is unlikely that monkeypox will become a new pandemic. The numbers are under control, as WHO data shows, and governments are mapping and acting more seriously than what happened with the coronavirus.

However, it is believed that the disease may become endemic. In any case, the studies need to be longer, both to understand transmission and to find out who are the reservoir animals of the virus.

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