What is monkeypox? How common is monkey flu?

What is monkeypox? How common is monkey flu?

The monkey flu virus is a member of the same family as the smallpox virus. But its severity is low and experts say the risk of infection is also low.

It begins to infect mostly in rural areas of Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.

There are two main types of this virus: West African and Central African.

Two infected patients from the UK are on a visit to Nigeria. They are now plagued by the West African virus. It usually does not cause severe symptoms but has not yet been confirmed.

The third victim was a health worker who contracted the virus from that patient.

There is no link between the four most recent infections (three in London and one in northeastern England) and no travel history. It seems they got it in the UK.

The United Kingdom's health care agency says anyone who worries they may be infected should see a doctor.

What are the symptoms?

The initial symptoms are fever, headache, swelling, back pain, muscle aches and lethargy.

Once the fever subsides, itching often occurs on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body (often the hands and feet).

The itching can be severe and eventually go through various stages and become a peeling crust. Eventually the wound may leave scars.

The infection usually resolves spontaneously and lasts 14 to 21 days.

High fever
Swelling of the lymph nodes
Muscle and body aches
Blisters all over the body
Wounds like rash
Back pain

How is it contracted?

Medical experts say the monkeypox virus can be transmitted from one person to another through close contact with contaminated fluids, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and bedding.

The virus is endemic to rural areas of central and western Africa.

The virus, which has recently spread to Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia, has been confirmed in more than 80 infected patients.

Monkey flu can be spread when someone comes in close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through injured skin, airways, or through the eyes, nose, or mouth.

It has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be transmitted through direct contact during sexual intercourse.

It can also be spread by contact with infected animals such as monkeys, rats and squirrels, or by infected objects such as bedding and clothing.

How dangerous is that?

Most cases of the virus were not severe and sometimes resembled chickenpox. It will go away on its own in a few weeks.

However, the monkey flu menace is likely to be more severe, and deaths have been reported in West Africa.

How common is the spread?

The virus was first identified by a caged monkey, and since the 1970s there have been reports of occasional outbreaks across 10 African countries.

Outbreaks appear to have been exacerbated in 2003 in the United States, when the disease first appeared outside of Africa. The disease was transmitted to humans through close contact with infected prairie dogs from various small mammals imported into the country. A total of 81 patients were reported, but none died.

In 2017, the largest outbreak occurred in Nigeria, roughly 40 years later. Of the 172 suspected cases of monkey flu, 75% of the victims were men between the ages of 21 and 40.

What are the treatments?

There is no cure for monkeypox, but the spread can be controlled by preventing infection.

The smallpox vaccine has been proven to be 85% effective in preventing the spread of monkey flu and is still used in some cases.

Should the public be afraid?

Experts say there is still no national outbreak and the UK public health department says the risk to the public is low.

Jonathan Ball, a professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said: "Only one in 50 people who come in contact with the original monkey flu patient is infected with the virus, so the potential for the virus to show is weak."

"It would be wrong to think that there is a nationwide outbreak right now."

Dr. Nick Finn, Deputy Director of the National Epidemiology Service at the UK's Public Health Service, said: "It is important to note that the overall risk to the general public is very low".

The UK Public Health Service is working to advise and monitor those who have had close contact with the patient.

Can Monkeypox come to Sri Lanka too?

With the identification of monkeypox patients in Israel, Switzerland and Austria, the number of countries where the virus has spread has risen to 15. Monkeypox, which causes symptoms similar to chickenpox, is not easily transmitted to humans, and the disease is usually mild. But doctors say it can be fatal for patients with complications. Health experts say the virus, which is spreading around the world, is at risk of entering Sri Lanka.

Does Sri Lanka have disease detection technology?

Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, Head, Department of Allergy, Immunology and Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, said that Sri Lanka has the capability to test and diagnose monkeypox.

He said his laboratory had all the infrastructure needed to diagnose the disease and that the required reagents, which had already been ordered, would be available this week.

Is there a vaccine to control the disease?

Dr. Chandima Jeewandara said that there is a specific antiviral for monkeypox.

He also stated that there are approved vaccines for that. Dr. Jeewandara said that the population over 45 has been vaccinated against smallpox and they have at least partial protection. He added that according to current data, this is not as highly contagious as an airborne respiratory tract virus.

Meanwhile, Specialist Dr. Samitha Ginige said that there is no direct effect of this virus in Sri Lanka at present. He said that this was a disease like chicken pox and that it was not spreading on a large scale.

The specialist said that this was not a new virus. He also stated that he is currently on the lookout for this condition.

Specialist Dr. Ginige said that an infected person can remain in the condition for about 10 days. He also revealed that there are several tests to identify hatred. Accordingly, an antibody test or a PCR test can identify the infected person.

Health experts point out that it is not yet known how the virus spread from person to person in a chain, considering the history of the association.

They said it was a disease that showed symptoms similar to chickenpox, which is different from measles. They also revealed that these blisters appear even on the palms of patients. Experts point out that there is a risk of the virus entering the country due to tourism. They also revealed that the risk could exist in any country.

Sources: UK Public Health Division and World Health Organization.
Excerpt: BBC Sinhala Sandeshaya 

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