An Italian greyhound belonging to a gay couple in Paris catches monkey pox

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that causes unusual rashes or lesions (shown in a brochure provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How to catch monkey pox?

Until this global outbreak, monkeypox was typically spread by infected rodents, including rats, mice and even squirrels, in West and Central Africa.

Humans can catch the disease, which comes from the same family as smallpox, if they are bitten by infected animals, touch blood, body fluids or scabs, or eat wild game or bushmeat.

Orthopoxvirus, which causes monkeypox, can enter the body through broken skin, even if it is not visible, as well as the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Although mainly spread by wild animals, monkeypox was known to be spread between people. However, health chiefs insist it was very rare until the current outbreak.

Human-to-human spread can occur if someone touches clothing or bedding used by an infected person, or through direct contact with scabs that reveal the virus. The virus can also be spread through coughing and sneezing.

In the steady increase in cases, experts think the virus is passed through skin-to-skin contact during sex, although this exact mechanism has never been seen until now.

How deadly is it?

Monkeypox is usually mild, with most patients recovering within a few weeks without treatment.

However, the disease kills up to 10% of cases. But that high rate is believed to be partly due to a historical lack of testing, meaning that one-tenth of known cases have died rather than one-tenth of all infections.

However, with milder strains, the death rate is closer to one in 100, similar to when Covid first hit.

The West African version of the virus, which is mild compared to the Central African strain, is behind the current spread. No deaths have been reported as part of the ongoing outbreak.

How is it tested?

Chickenpox can be difficult to diagnose as it is often confused with other infections such as chicken pox.

Monkeypox is confirmed by clinical assessment by a health professional and testing at the UK’s specialist laboratory – the UKHSA Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory.

The test involves taking samples from skin lesions, such as part of the scab, fluid from the lesions, or pieces of dry bark.

What are the symptoms?

It can take up to three weeks for patients infected with monkeypox to develop any telltale symptoms.

Early signs of the virus include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, meaning it could theoretically be mistaken for other common illnesses.

But its most unusual feature is a rash that often starts on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body, usually the hands and feet.

The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a crust, which then falls off.

How long is someone contagious?

An individual is contagious from the point their rash appears until all scabs have fallen off and there is intact skin underneath.

Scabs may also contain infectious viral material.

The infectious period is believed to last three weeks, but may vary between individuals.

What do I do if I have symptoms?

The UK’s Health Safety Agency advises Britons to contact their sexual health clinic if they have a blistering rash and have been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed case of smallpox or have been in West or Central Africa during the last three weeks.

Britons are being asked to contact clinics before their visit and avoid contact with others until they have been seen by a doctor.

Gay and bisexual men have been asked to be especially alert to the symptoms, as most cases have been detected in men who have sex with men.

What even is monkey pox?

Monkeypox was first discovered when an outbreak of a smallpox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research in 1958.

The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and since then the infection has been reported in several countries in West and Central Africa.

Only a handful of cases have been reported outside of Africa, and they were limited to people with travel links to the continent.

The United Kingdom, the United States, Israel and Singapore are the only countries to have detected the virus before May 2022.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that kills up to one in ten of those infected, but it does not spread easily between people. The tropical disease is endemic in parts of Africa and is known for its rare and unusual rashes, bumps and lesions (file photo)

Nurses and doctors are advised to stay

Nurses and doctors are advised to be “alert” to patients who develop a new scabies rash or lesions (like the one above).

Is it related to chicken pox?

Despite causing a similar rash, chickenpox is not related to chickenpox.

The infection, which usually affects children, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

By comparison, monkeypox, like smallpox, is an orthopoxvirus. Because of this link, smallpox vaccines also provide protection against monkeypox.

Are young people more vulnerable?

According to the World Health Organisation, Britons under the age of 50 may be more susceptible to monkeypox.

This is because children in the UK were routinely given the smallpox jab, which protects against monkeypox, until 1971.

The WHO also warns that the death rate has been higher among young children.

Does it spread as easily as Covid?

Leading experts insist we won’t see Covid-style levels of transmission in the monkeypox outbreak.

A report by the World Health Organization last year suggested that the natural R-rate of the virus (the number of people each patient would infect if they lived normally while sick) is two.

This is lower than the original Wuhan variant of Covid and about a third of the R rate of the Indian ‘Delta’ strain.

But the actual rate is likely much lower because “distinctive symptoms greatly aid early detection and containment,” the team said, meaning it’s easy to detect cases and isolate them.

Covid is mainly transmitted through the droplets that an infected person releases every time they breathe, speak, cough or sneeze.

How is the UK handling the outbreak?

MailOnline revealed that monkeypox patients and their close contacts, including NHS workers, are being offered the Imvanex smallpox vaccine.

The strategy, known as ring vaccination, involves jabbing and screening anyone around an infected person to form a buffer of immune people to limit the spread of a disease.

Also, close contacts of people with confirmed monkeypox infection are told to stay home for 21 days and avoid contact with children under 12, immunocompromised people and pregnant women.

The government said unprotected direct contact, or contact with a high-risk environment, includes living in the same house as someone with smallpox, having sexual contact with them or even changing their bedding “without Appropriate PPE.”

As with Covid, someone who has come within 1 meter of an infected person is classified as a monkey pox contact.

This lower contact category, which also includes sitting next to a person with smallpox on a plane, means a tracer will call the person every day for three weeks and advise them not to work for 21 days if their job includes immunocompromised children or colleagues.

The UK has stopped short of requiring people to be quarantined by law if they develop monkeypox, but ministers are considering a public health campaign to alert gay and bisexual men, due to the number of cases in this group

And if it continues to spread?

Experts told MailOnline they “could see a role” for a jab aimed at gay men in the UK “if this is not brought under control quickly”.

Close contacts of known UK cases are already being offered the jab, which was originally designed for smallpox. The two viruses that cause rashes are very similar.

A health source told MailOnline that “there would be a number of strategies we would look at” if cases continued to rise.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London’s regional director of public health, said if the outbreak in the capital continues to grow, the roll-out of vaccines and treatments could be extended to more groups.

He said there are “plans” to have more antivirals if the outbreak continues to grow.

What other countries have detected cases?

More than 40 countries, including the United States, Spain and Italy, have detected cases of monkeypox.

Most cases have been detected in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Canada and Germany.

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work in monkeypox, including the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for smallpox in the EU in January.

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work in monkeypox, including the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for smallpox in the EU in January.

Is there a vaccine for this?

The smallpox vaccine, called Imvanex in the UK and Jynneos in the US, can protect against monkeypox because the viruses behind the diseases are closely related.

Data shows it prevents around 85% of cases and has been used ‘off-label’ in the UK since 2018.

The jab, believed to cost £20 per dose, contains a modified vaccine virus, which is similar to both smallpox and monkeypox but does not cause disease in people.

Because of its similarity to smallpox viruses, antibodies produced against this virus offer cross-protection.

Are there medications to treat it?

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that seem to work with monkeypox.

This includes the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January.

Tecovirimat prevents the virus from leaving an infected cell, making it harder for the virus to spread inside the body.

An injectable antiviral used to treat AIDS called cidofovir can be used to control the infection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It also works by stopping the growth of the virus.

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