Throughout 2022, there is a growing concern over the heightened number of monkeypox virus cases. Dr. Eric Ryndock, a professor of biology at Millersville University, wants to keep the community updated and informed about the virus. He says that the virus is genetically related to the one that causes smallpox. Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 and, despite its name, is not usually found in monkeys.
Ryndock explains that monkeypox is usually classified as a zoonotic infection, meaning that the virus is transmitted from animals to people. This type of transmission occurs when people are bitten or scratched by infected animals or encounter their bodily fluids. Prior to this year, incidents of monkeypox were generally limited to central and western Africa. Countries outside of this normal reporting range, including the U.S., have begun reporting monkeypox cases in 2022.
Ryndock says, “This led to the suspicion that person-person transmission was occurring, which is expected to be linked to direct contact with infectious sores and bodily fluids. If monkeypox transmits through respiratory droplets, similar to SARS-CoV-2, it’s expected to be a rare event and would only occur if an individual has sores in their throat.”
Fortunately, monkeypox is not as deadly as its cousin, smallpox. Ryndock notes that the current strain of monkeypox causing the outbreak has a mortality rate of 1%, although previous strains have been reported to be as high as 10%. Individuals who contract the virus show symptoms for about two to four weeks. Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and rashes. Luckily, treatments for the disease already exist. Antivirals and antibody treatments are therapeutic options for those who become infected. However, Ryndock says that there are also two vaccinations that can be used to prevent an outbreak in the U.S. “Due to the low number of infections and mode of transmission, vaccinations are only advised for individuals who are at high risk of contracting the virus,” says Ryndock.
As cases have increased, anyone who has close contact with someone infected with monkeypox is presumed to be at risk of infection. Ryndock recommends being vigilant of those you interact with and reporting any unusual rashes or lesions to a primary care physician.
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