The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency over the weekend, amid calls for swift action to stem the spread of the virus.
More than 16,000 confirmed cases have been registered in 75 countries so far this year, the WHO said on Monday.
Here is an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and vaccines.
– symptoms –
The first symptoms can be fever, headache, stabbing muscle pain, fatigue, skin rash, and swollen and painful lymph nodes.
A rash can turn into painful, fluid-filled skin lesions about one to three days after the onset of a fever.
After a few days or weeks, the lesions or sores will turn into scabs before falling off.
Monkeypox has long been endemic in Central and West Africa. In other countries where cases have been registered since May, the lesions were more common around the genitals and anus, and around the mouth.
On Monday, the UK Health Authority added just one or two genital or anal lesions and rectal pain or bleeding to its list of symptoms.
However, the symptoms varied from patient to patient. They usually last between two and four weeks, and the virus is contagious until the rash has completely healed.
– diagnosis –
Most of the recent global cases have been in men who have had sex with men and have recently had sex with a new partner, according to the WHO.
A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 98 percent of those infected were gay or bisexual men, and 95 percent of cases were transmitted through sexual activity.
Diagnosing the virus can be difficult because of its inconsistent symptoms, which can resemble sexually transmitted infections, several health officials warn.
Europe has been the epicenter of the outbreak, with many cases among younger men living in cities, according to the WHO.
Confirmation of a case of monkeypox may require a PCR test or a sample or biopsy of a skin lesion.
People with potential cases must isolate themselves while awaiting test results. Once the virus is confirmed, isolation for three weeks is recommended.
Monkeypox has been detected in semen, but is not considered a sexually transmitted disease and is spread through close physical contact. The European Center for Disease Prevention (ECDC) recommends using a condom for 12 weeks after recovery.
– Treatment –
The disease usually heals on its own after two to three weeks, sometimes it takes a month.
In many cases, the only treatment required is to treat the symptoms, e.g. B. to eliminate the fever or relieve the itching.
However, sometimes the lesions can become extremely painful, requiring serious pain medication or even hospital treatment.
The most severe cases have been observed in children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.
So far, no deaths have been reported in Europe or the United States.
People with monkeypox are advised not to scratch the lesions, which could spread the virus or leave a scar, and cover them to avoid temptation.
The European Medicines Agency has approved a smallpox drug, tecovirimat, to treat monkeypox.
– vaccinations –
A smallpox vaccine from the Danish drug manufacturer Bavarian Nordic, which is sold under the name Jynneos in the USA and under the name Imvanex in Europe, has also been shown to protect against monkeypox.
The European Commission approved its use in monkeypox on Monday.
It may also have a “significant protective effect” when administered within four days of exposure to a case of monkeypox, according to the ECDC.
Countries like Britain, Canada, France and the United States have started offering vaccinations to those most at risk from the virus.
The vaccine is given in two doses at least 28 days apart. But for people who were vaccinated against smallpox as children, one dose is enough. A third dose is recommended for people with compromised immune systems.
Because the vaccines do not offer immediate or complete protection, health officials advise caution after an injection.
The United States also has many older-generation doses of the ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine, but it is not recommended for everyone because of significant side effects.
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