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What is Monkey Pox? Should India be Worried? All You Need to Know

Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates and occasionally jumps to people.

Published: May 31, 2022 4:51 PM IST

By Lifestyle Staff | Edited by Anjali Thakur

What is Monkey Pox? Should India be Worried? All You Need to Know
Monkeypox, a disease that rarely appears outside Africa, has been identified by European and American health authorities in recent days. (Picture credit: AP)

After Covid-19, the world is now under the grip of Monkeypox. Although no cases have been reported in India, central and state governments are keeping a close watch on this new medical challenge. Monkeypox has been spreading in Europe, North America, Israel and Australia- so far 100 cases have been identified with monkeypox.

What is Monkey Pox?

Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates and occasionally jumps to people. It belongs to the same virus family as smallpox.

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Most human cases have been in central and west Africa and outbreaks have been relatively limited.

The illness was first identified by scientists in 1958 when there were two outbreaks of a “pox-like” disease in research monkeys — thus the name monkeypox. The first known human infection was in 1970, in a young boy in a remote part of Congo.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but causes milder symptoms. Most patients only experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illnesses may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

The incubation period is from about five days to three weeks. Most people recover within about two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized.

Monkeypox can be fatal for up to one in 10 people and is thought to be more severe in children.

People exposed to the virus are often given one of several smallpox vaccines, which have been shown to be effective against monkeypox. Anti-viral drugs are also being developed.

Is Monkeypox being spread through sex?

It’s possible, but it’s unclear at the moment.

Monkeypox has not previously been documented to have spread through sex, but it can be transmitted through close contact with infected people, their body fluids and their clothing or bedsheets.

Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, said it’s still too early to determine how the men in the U.K. were infected.

“By nature, sexual activity involves intimate contact, which one would expect to increase the likelihood of transmission, whatever a person’s sexual orientation and irrespective of the mode of transmission,” Skinner said.

Francois Balloux of University College London said monkeypox said sex qualifies as the kind of close contact needed to transmit the disease.

The U.K. cases “do not necessarily imply any recent change in the virus’ route of transmission,” Balloux said.

Can it become a Covid Like Pandemic?

A top US health expert says it is unlikely that monkeypox would cause a Covid-19-like pandemic in the world. Dr Faheem Younus took to Twitter to clear the air, he says monkeypox cases are concerning but the risk of it becoming a pandemic is zero per cent, given that it is not novel, unlike SARS-CoV-2.

Should India be Worried?

The government’s medical body – the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – said no monkeypox cases have been reported in the country. However, the government is keeping a close watch on the situation. The ICMR said the children are more at risk of getting infected with the monkeypox virus.

“Kids are more susceptible to the monkeypox infection. The elderly people would be vaccinated with the smallpox vaccine. After the 1980s, people who did not get the smallpox vaccine that gives cross-immunity to fight against the infection, so the younger people will be more susceptible,” Dr Aparna Mukherjee, ICMR scientist, said.

(Agency inputs included) 

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