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What are the symptoms and treatment of monkeypox, a deadly infection spreading among humans

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease – that is transmitted to humans from animals -, most cases of which are found in Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the monkeypox virus is similar to human smallpox. Although monkeypox is much milder than smallpox, it can be fatal with a mortality rate of between one and 10 per cent, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.

The first case of monkeypox was identified in Nigeria in 2017 in 39 years. Since then there have been sporadic cases of it in Nigeria. It is zoonotic, belonging to the same family of smallpox although less severe than smallpox with lower infection. 

North Wales in the UK reported two cases of monkeypox from the same household. The cases would be only the fifth and sixth cases ever recorded in the UK. Monkeypox has been seen just four times in the past, with cases dating back to 2018 and always in travellers from other countries.

How do humans catch it?

The Monkeypox infection usually occurs after direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or skin lesions of an infected animal. In Africa, human infections have been documented through the handling of infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats and squirrels. Eating the inadequately cooked meat of an infected animal is a risk.

Human-to-human transmission can result from close contact with the skin lesions of an infected person, or objects recently contaminated by the patient. This generally requires prolonged face-to-face contact, putting loved ones at greater risk. Transmission can also occur via the placenta, known as congenital monkeypox.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

According to CDC, after 12 days of contracting the virus one can experience fever, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. 

The body starts developing rashes after 3 days of contact, with fever kicking in. The rashes spread throughout the body and can be extremely itchy, which goes through different stages while healing, forming a scab, and then falls off. 

The lesions can lead to scarring. The symptoms and illness last up to 2 to 4 weeks and are reduced on their own.

Monkeypox treatment

As of now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there is no specific cure for the illness, however, it can be controlled with smallpox vaccine cidofovir, ST-246, and vaccinia immune globulin (VIG).

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