A lesser-known infectious disease called monkeypox has been affecting people in Africa for more than four decades. This ailment, which is a double-stranded DNA and is transmitted to humans from animals, has spread across 10 different African countries. It has affected almost the entire Congo Republic making 88 people fall prey to the virus and claiming six lives.
"It kills up to 1 in 10 of its victims, similar to the pneumonic plague, and is particularly dangerous in children. Since 1970, 10 countries in Africa have had at least one recorded human case of monkeypox," said a NPR report.
Africa is extremely vulnerable to this disease because of its tradition of trading in bush meat (meat from non-domesticated mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds) and the disease is known to spread mostly through animal bites or any contact with a victim. The primary symptoms of the disease are fever and rash, which would gradually turn to blisters and boils on the victim's body.
According to Daily Star the monkeypox expert, Jay Hooper had claimed that though the virus is not spreading rapidly in humans, it should be prevented within time.
"Every time there's an outbreak, and the more people get infected, the more chances monkeypox has to adapt to people," he said.
"We didn't think Ebola spread very easily between people and we were all surprised that healthcare workers could catch it even though they were wearing protective gear. With viruses that spill-over from animals, you just never know what's going to happen," he further added.
Anne Rimoin who is a medical expert and studied monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a long-time said that since the disease almost looks like smallpox, "doctors have likely mistaken monkeypox for smallpox."
It has been a long time that smallpox vaccines were used to cure monkeypox but later on, countries stopped vaccinating children.
"So now there's this growing population of people who don't have immunity to monkeypox," said Hooper.
"And when you do have an outbreak, it's likely to be bigger because fewer people in the community are protected," he concluded.
He also mentioned that those small outbreaks, now have caused for dozens of monkeypox victims in West and Central Africa.
However, apart from the smallpox vaccines, there is no other specific treatment available to cure the disease.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are few more steps that can be taken to prevent monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with animals that could harbour the virus
- Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal.
- Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
- Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.
Till now researchers could not come up with any particular treatment to cure the disease but infected people could take vaccines up to 14 days after the exposure.