THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently advised that the monkeypox outbreak has become a public health emergency of international concern, with upward of 16,000 cases in 75 countries.

Though you may have never heard of the condition, it was first identified in 1958 in a group of research monkeys. The term “monkeypox” is something of a misnomer, as it is mostly rodents who carry the virus, and transmit the disease to humans.

The first case identified in humans was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1970. Until 2003, most reported cases were found in central and west African countries.

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However, in 2003, there was an outbreak in the US, thought to have come from rodents imported from Africa, affecting pet dogs.

Before this year’s outbreak, all human cases involved persons travelling from Nigeria.

The monkey pox virus is spread in several ways. These include through broken skin, by breathing it in, and through your eyes, mouth and nasal passages.

Daily Echo:

Person to person contact is through close bodily contact, sharing bedding and towels, and via coughing and sneezing.

The symptoms are those of a rash, that may be mistaken for either chicken pox or smallpox, all members of the same family of viruses.

Diagnosis is based on physical examination, though the rash may be quite mild in some individuals. A swab of the skin lesion can confirm this, and will demonstrate the presence of the virus.

Daily Echo:

Generalised complaints are those of any virus, including fevers and chills, muscle and joint aches and pains, as well as fatigue.

The rash turns to scabs. Only after all the scabs have fallen off and intact skin is seen underneath, can a person be considered non infective.

Current guidelines advise that you should self-isolate for 72 hours after your temperature returns to normal, there are no new lesions for 48 hours, and all scabs have dropped off with intact skin present underneath.

Thankfully there is a recovery rate of over 95 per cent surviving infection. This particular strain, the west African variant, is thought to be mild.

Treatment for monkeypox is oral fluids, pain killers and suitable rest.

Smallpox was eradicated in 1980, and two vaccines against it have been used for monkeypox. They have an estimated success rate of 85% and can be used before as well as after exposure to the virus.

Though the monkeypox virus is much milder than smallpox, there are concerns that it may mutate into more virulent forms, almost filling the void left by the successful eradication of smallpox.

It is also vitally important that a non-judgemental approach is adopted to allow people to seek medical help and support.