What Scientists Know About Monkeypox, So Far


| LAST UPDATE 05/30/2022

By Hayden Katz
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In early May of this year, the first case of monkeypox was confirmed in the United Kingdom. Since then, epidemiologist Andrea McCollum and her co-workers have been investigating the seemingly new virus. Here's what they know so far.

Since 2018, there have only been 8 cases of the monkeypox in humans in non-endemic locations, as it is a very rare infection. Typically it is found in animals in areas where the virus is endemic, such as Central and Western Africa. Most people who do end up getting it catch it via traveling. For example, a patient diagnosed earlier this month had gone to Nigeria. But when individuals who had not been to Africa were discovered to have monkeypox, scientists became concerned. "We've never really seen this type of observation from monkeypox before," explained McCollum, "so this is particularly concerning."

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From May 13 to the 24, there has been an increase of 250 people reporting to have caught the infection. Although 16 countries have been contaminated, the most amount of cases have been found in Europe, Australia, North America, and Israel. So far, it's been identified as a West African strand that causes flu-like symptoms and red rashes all over the body. Typically, the spots will start on the face before moving down the body. They start off looking like red dots, and then they slowly turn into pus-filled blisters that turn into scabs that eventually fall off. Thankfully many of the symptoms wear off on their own, but sadly at least 3% of causes can become deadly. On the other hand, the Congo Basin monkeypox strain is fatal roughly in 10% of cases, as it is harsher than the former. 

Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic - including the animals affected - people were extremely worried when the news that monkeypox was spreading happened. But the two viruses are actually quite different. “It [monkeypox] is very different from COVID,” assured Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the World Health Organization. “Transmission is really happening from close physical contact, skin-to-skin contact.” Not only does it not spread as easily as COVID-19, but so far, no fatalities have been reported. Yet, how it started and how the outspread occurred continued to remain unknown to public health figures. Stay tuned for updates.

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