The Apache Pow Wow

Monkeypox Outbreak in the UK

Kylie Ha

According to public health warnings, the United Kingdom (UK) has been diagnosed with “monkeypox” for the first time. Although the rare viral infection does not spread easily between humans and people recover within a few weeks, the Public Health England (PHE) stated that the patient was a resident of Nigeria, where the virus was most likely contracted.

Monkeypox is usually a mild self-limiting illness, caused by the “monkeypox virus”, which is found mainly in central and western African countries. The initial basic symptoms are fevers, headaches, muscle aches, backaches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. These can transform into rashes that travel to other parts of the body and become scabs. Though the transmission of the infection is extremely low, the public is warned about close contact with people.

According to PHE, in September 2017, Nigeria experienced a large sustained outbreak of monkeypox that continued to circulate in Nigeria – and could affect travelers who are returning from this part of the world. Both patients were diagnosed days apart and believed to have contracted the disease in Nigeria before traveling to England, but there is no known UK-related link between the two patients.

As many as one in ten cases of this disease in Africa result in death and requires at least two people to be in close contact in order to be passed between them. Despite the unusual case, a number of people who may have been in contact with the patients including the fellow passengers who traveled with the initial patient on their flight from Nigeria. The monkeypox virus is similar to human smallpox, a disease that had been eradicated in 1980. Even though monkeypox is much milder than smallpox, it can be fatal and begins with lesions on a patient’s hand.

Human monkeypox was first identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire) within a nine-year-old boy. It occurred in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968. Usually picked up through direct contact with infected animals such as squirrels and monkeys, a majority of cases have been reported in rural, rainforest regions.

Most people recover within three weeks, and up to 10% of those affected die – although there is a smallpox vaccine currently being trialed, there is no treatment or vaccine available. Nigerian health officials encouraged people to not eat monkey meat, washing hands with soap and water after coming in contact with animals, and even to severe measures of not shaking hands with people to curtail the spread of the virus. A wider outbreak in the UK is though highly unexpected and unlikely after reports were launched in Cornwall and Blackpool. Nigeria has launched an official investigation to clearly identify the source of the monkeypox outbreak, and the smallpox vaccine is believed to have the ability to protect against acquiring it and treating it.

Photo courtesy of BBC.CO.UK

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Monkeypox Outbreak in the UK