Monkeypox Outbreak in Men Without Travel History to Africa

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Courtesy of Brian Allard (Flickr CC0)

American and European health administrations have recently determined several monkeypox cases in young men. It’s a surprising disease outbreak that seldom emerges outside Africa.

Health officials worldwide are on the lookout for more cases because the disease spreads among people who did not travel to Africa. However, the risk to the public is low.

What is Monkeypox Virus

Monkeypox is a virus from wild animals like primates and rodents that sometimes leaps to people. Most of the cases are endemic in the west and central Africa.

The first illness was identified by scientists in research monkeys when there were two “pox-like” disease outbreaks in 1958. The first human infection was in a 9-year-old boy in 1970 in a secluded part of Congo.

Symptoms and Treatment

The virus is identical to the smallpox virus, but the symptoms are milder. Most patients encounter body aches, chills, fever, and fatigue. But, some patients with severe cases developed inflammation and lesions on the hands, face, and other parts of the body.

The incubation period s between five to 21 days, and most patients recover within four weeks without hospitalization. Monkeypox is more severe in children.

Anti-viral drugs are currently being developed. Individuals suspected of the virus and high-risk contacts are given smallpox vaccines.

Estimated Monkeypox Cases

Courtesy of CDC (Wikimedia Creative Commons PDM)

The World Health Organization reports about 6,000 cases in Congo and 3,000 cases in Nigeria every year. Experts agree that many infected cases are unreported.

Remote cases of monkeypox are periodically reported in Britain and the U.S. These are typically associated with travel to Africa or contact with animals where the disease is common.

In 2003, six U.S. states reported 47 confirmed cases of monkeypox infection. Authorities caught the virus from a pet prairie dog imported from Ghana.

What’s Different About the Recent Cases?

The recent cases are different because they spread among people who have no travel history to Africa and involve homosexual men. Infections have been documented in Portugal, Britain, Spain, Italy, and Sweden.

According to Britain’s Health Security Agency, the multiple transmissions are not connected. For example, the cases in Portugal were noted in a health clinic where men seek treatment for genital lesions.

On Wednesday, a monkeypox case was from a man who recently traveled to Canada, where Canadian authorities investigated a suspected infection in Montreal.

Is Monkeypox a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

While monkeypox may be a sexually transmitted disease, it is still unclear.

Monkeypox has not been previously documented to spread through sex, but close contact with an infected individual can transmit the disease through clothing, bedsheets, and body fluid.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Sheena Robertson


AP News: EXPLAINER: What is monkeypox and where is it spreading?; Maria Cheng
BBC News: Why monkeypox cases spread in Europe, US – Explainer
VOA News: Explainer: What is Monkeypox and Where Is it Spreading?

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Brian Allard’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy CDC’s Wikimedia – Public Domain License

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