What is monkeypox and why is it in the news?


BONDUA, LIBERIA – UNDATED: In this 1971 Center For Disease Control handout photo, monkeypox-like lesions are shown on the arm and leg of a female child in Bondua, Liberia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said June 7 the viral disease monkeypox, thought to be spread by prairie dogs, has been detected in the Americas for the first time with about 20 cases reported in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. (Photo Courtesy of the CDC/Getty Images)

If you’ve watched or read any news in the last week or two, chances are you’ve heard of the monkeypox disease that health officials have been monitoring closely.

US health officials are now monitoring over 200 people in the United States for monkeypox after an individual who traveled from Nigeria to Texas earlier this month was diagnosed with the disease.

The first case of monkeypox was discovered in 1958 in a colony of monkeys that were being used to research, hence the “monkey” part of the name. The first human case came in 1970, during which the country was trying to eradicate the smallpox disease.

The disease has been very uncommon, especially in the United States, and the only other time that the country saw confirmed cases was in 2003 when 47 people were diagnosed with the disease. It was later determined that infected prairie dogs sold as pets were the cause of the outbreak, and there were no confirmed fatalities as a result of the outbreak. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the strain of monkeypox seen in the affected individual has a fatality rate of around ten percent.

“(Monkeypox) begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. Within a few days after a fever, the patient develops a rash and lesions,” says Dr. Michael Seim, Senior Vice President, and Chief Quality Officer at WellSpan Health. “The illness typically lasts two to four weeks. The strain that infected the traveler has a 10 percent fatality rate.”

Officials are optimistic that the spread of the disease was curbed due to the United States’ mask policy throughout airports. The disease primarily spreads through respiratory droplets from person to person, and with all individuals being required to wear a mask, officials believe the risk is low for the infected individual to spread the disease.

As for a cure for the disease, Seim says “there is currently no proven, safe treatment. To control outbreaks, doctors use the smallpox vaccine, antiviral medicine, and medicine known as vaccinia immune globulin or VIG.”

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