In a statement released on July 23, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that monkeypox is a global health emergency that must be addressed. Infected people transmit the virus primarily through close contact. It was first discovered in monkeys. In Africa, where the virus is endemic, it has rarely spread outside this year. Early May reports indicated that the outbreak had spread to Europe after cases were reported in the United Kingdom. Since then, more than 16,000 cases have ballooned from 75 countries. A total of five deaths have been reported so far, all occurring in Africa.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, aches, and pus-filled lesions on the skin. According to the WHO, people usually recover within two to four weeks. The virus can be spread by anyone, but the current outbreak outside of Africa is largely confined to men who have had sex with other men.

Generally, monkeypox spreads via skin-to-skin contact between an infected individual and someone with an active rash, as well as via contact with contaminated clothing or bedding. Unlike the COVID-19 pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2, it is less easily transmitted. Globally, monkeypox has a moderate risk, except for Europe, where the WHO has deemed it to be high.

What Makes Monkeypox an Emergency?

Monkeypox has been deemed a public health emergency of international concern by several countries due to its rapid spread and potential to become an endemic disease in more. This emergency declaration aims to inspire global cooperation and action in the manufacture and distribution of vaccines and treatments.

In prior monkeypox outbreaks in Africa of the strain now spreading, death rates have been around 1%. However, so far this outbreak seems less lethal in nations without endemic monkeypox.

Researchers are trying to determine whether the virus has changed since the initial outbreak of cases. Experts say that increased global travel and climate change have accelerated the spread of viruses. In the current monkeypox response, sexual health clinics on the front lines are ill-prepared due to years of financial neglect.

Protective Measures Against Monkeypox

In order to avoid spreading infections, health officials recommend avoiding close contact with people who have a distinctive rash or are otherwise ill. Those who suspect they have monkeypox should isolate themselves and seek immediate medical help.

Individuals at high risk for the disease and those who have recently had close contact with an infected person are also being offered monkeypox vaccines.

Treatment for Monkeypox

Monkeypox symptoms usually go away on their own after a few weeks. If secondary bacterial infections are present, patients may need extra fluids and additional treatment.

In the U.S. and the EU, tecovirimat – branded as TPOXX by SIGA Technologies – is approved for treating smallpox, while its European approval also covers monkeypox and cowpox.

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