Monkeypox is almost nothing like COVID-19.
Among the many differences — fortunately for a world weary of the pandemic — is that monkeypox is far less transmissible.
So although a case of monkeypox was identified in Massachusetts on Wednesday, along with a handful earlier this month in Europe, infectious disease experts say it won’t spell another global health crisis.
However, monkeypox is a serious disease worth monitoring so that it can be contained using standard public health tools. In this case, these primarily include vaccines (yes, there is already one) and the isolation of infected people.
Monkeypox is not new. Several thousand cases are reported each year, almost exclusively in Africa, although some of the newly reported cases in Europe have no known connection to Africa.
Unfortunately, social media is already awash with monkeypox misinformation, perhaps unsurprising for a disease with a name that sounds like something out of a bad disaster movie.
To clear up the confusion, we spoke to Brian DeHaven, an associate professor of biology at La Salle University, and Stuart Isaacs, under whom DeHaven received his PhD. on smallpox viruses at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Like COVID, monkeypox is caused by a virus. But the two microbes are not distantly related.
Coronaviruses contain single strands of genetic material called RNA. The monkeypox virus carries its genetic code in DNA, which is double-stranded.
The monkeypox virus is millions of times larger than the virus that causes COVID, and it produces proteins that disrupt the human immune system’s defences.
“They look a bit like bricks,” DeHaven said. “They are not subtle.”
Monkeypox is so named because it was discovered in 1958 in monkey colonies used for research.
But it’s unlikely that monkeys were the original source, said Isaacs, a virologist and associate professor at Penn. The virus is also transmitted by rodents.
People can transmit it through contact with body fluids, lesions on the skin, or mucosal surfaces like the mouth or throat, the World Health Organization says. In the UK, health officials say cases have predominantly occurred in men who are have sex with men.
Sex isn’t generally considered a mode of transmission, but it is theoretically possible, Isaacs said.
The monkeypox virus can also be spread through coughing, but generally through large droplets that fall to the ground within a few feet — not the lighter “aerosol” particles that stay airborne for minutes.
As a result, it spreads between people much less easily than COVID. Each person with COVID tends to pass it on to multiple people, on average (assuming they don’t have immunity), but some people with monkeypox pass it on to no one, DeHaven said.
“You get these flare-ups,” he said, “but then it burns out.”
Still, Isaacs said, the disease may be spreading more easily in Europe now, and it’s not clear why.
“There seems to be more human-to-human transmission than we might expect,” he said.
Typically, monkeypox begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, severe headache, and swelling of the lymph nodes.
After one to three days, a rash develops on the face and body, initially appearing as flat lesions and developing into pustules filled with yellowish fluid.
Symptoms can last two to four weeks. Monkeypox can be deadly, but the mortality rate varies widely from strain to strain, from near zero to as high as 11%, according to the WHO.
Yes. It’s the same one used to vaccinate people against smallpox. It works because the two viruses are so closely related, DeHaven said.
Roughly speaking, the two viruses are about as similar as two strains of the coronavirus that causes COVID.
The smallpox vaccine was routinely administered in the United States until 1972, when this disease was eradicated from that country. As a result, most people under the age of 50 have no immunity to either monkeypox or smallpox.
But unlike the vaccines against COVID, the smallpox vaccine works even after an infection has started if it is given in a timely manner.
Because human-to-human spread is limited, it’s unlikely public health officials would recommend widespread vaccination, Isaacs said. A more likely approach is ‘ring vaccination’, in which the ring of close contacts is vaccinated around each infected person.
That’s why the CDC urges people with possible symptoms to contact their doctor.
“People who may have symptoms of monkeypox, especially men who report having sex with other men and those who have close contact with them, should be alert for any unusual rash or lesion and contact their doctor for a risk assessment,” says the Agency .
Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Reuters that while the recent outbreaks in Europe were “highly unusual,” there was no reason to panic.
“This will not cause a nationwide epidemic like COVID, but it is a serious outbreak of a serious disease – and we should take it seriously,” he said.
Removed. Like monkeypox, the virus that causes chickenpox contains double-stranded DNA.
But they are on a different branch of the virus family tree. Despite the name, chickenpox is not a smallpox virus, but a herpes virus.
The true smallpox viruses include monkeypox, smallpox, and smallpox.