Monkeypox: Transmission, spread, prevention... WHO responses

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about a disease that is not new and of which we had heard little, but which is now responsible for an epidemic that has appeared in several regions of the world. It’s monkey pox.

On July 23, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the monkeypox outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”.

To date, this epidemic has affected nearly 17,000 people in seventy-four countries.

Although the WHO estimates the risk of monkeypox to be moderate globally and in all regions except the European region where the agency estimates the risk high, it is useful to know what she looks like so she can deal with it.

Here are WHO’s answers to all your questions about the disease and what you can do to protect yourself.

What is monkey pox?*

Monkeypox is a viral disease. It is transmitted to humans through contact with a person, animal or object carrying the virus. It can be contracted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids or skin lesions of an infected animal.

The disease is so named because it was detected in several monkeys in a laboratory in 1958. However, most animals susceptible to contracting the disease and then transmitting it to humans are rodents, such as giant rats. of Gambia, dormice or prairie dogs.

Where is it usually found?

Monkeypox is commonly seen in the rainforests of Central and West Africa, where animals that can carry the virus live and are endemic.

Monkey pox is now not limited to West and Central African countries but also affects the rest of the world, especially Western European countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Europe represents 80% of the cases recorded in the world. So far no deaths have been reported in these countries.

The number of cases remains quite low but some cases have no direct link with countries where monkeypox was present. The extent of community transmission is unclear at this stage.

What are the symptoms ?

Symptoms typically include fever, severe headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and skin rashes or lesions.

The rash usually appears on the first or third day after the onset of fever.

The lesions may be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, then crust over, dry up, and fall off. The number of lesions on an individual varies, ranging from a few to several thousand.

The rash tends to occur on the face, palms, and soles. It can also be found in the mouth, genitals and eyes.

Symptoms usually last two to four weeks and go away on their own without treatment. If you think your symptoms may be related to monkeypox, contact your doctor immediately. If you have had close contact with someone with these symptoms or think you may be infected, talk to your doctor.

Can you die from monkeypox?

In most cases, the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks, but in some people it can lead to medical complications or even death.

Newborns, children, and people with immune deficiencies are at risk of more severe symptoms and death from the disease.

Complications in severe cases include skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye infections which can lead to loss of vision.

Between 3 and 6% of identified cases where monkeypox is endemic have resulted in death.

In many cases, these are children or people who may have other health problems. It should be noted that these figures may be overestimated because the number of cases in endemic countries is limited.

Transmission from animals to humans

Monkeypox can be transmitted to humans when they come into physical contact with an infected animal, whether they are rodents or primates.

The risk of contracting the disease from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are sick or dead (including contact with their flesh and blood). It is essential to emphasize that any food containing meat or animal parts should be cooked, especially in countries where monkeypox is endemic.

Person-to-person transmission

People with the disease are contagious as long as they show symptoms (usually within the first two to four weeks). You can catch the disease through physical contact with someone who has symptoms.

Rashes, bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus, or blood from broken skin), and scabs are particularly infectious.

Contact with objects that have been in contact with the infected person, such as clothing, bedding, towels or objects such as kitchen utensils, can also be a source of infection.

Ulcers, lesions or wounds can also be infectious because the virus can be transmitted through saliva.

The risk of infection is therefore high if we live with infected people in our homes or with sexual partners. People working in the health sector are also more at risk.

The virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her child in utero through the placenta, or through contact between a parent and an infected child during or after birth, through skin contact.

However, it is not known whether asymptomatic people can transmit the disease.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who comes into physical contact with a person showing symptoms or with an infected animal is at increased risk of infection.

People who have been vaccinated against smallpox are likely to have some protection against infection. In 1980, smallpox became the first human disease to be eradicated, so smallpox vaccination was stopped.

Younger people are therefore more likely to contract smallpox. However, people who have been vaccinated against smallpox should also take precautions to protect themselves and others.

Newborns, children, and people with underlying immune deficiencies may experience more severe or even life-threatening symptoms. Healthcare workers are also at high risk of infection due to prolonged exposure to the virus.

Newer vaccines have been developed, one of which has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox.

Can children get monkey pox?

Children can get monkeypox and are often more likely to have severe symptoms than teenagers and adults. The virus can also be transmitted from a woman to her child in utero or to a newborn during birth or through physical contact.

How can I protect myself and others?

You can reduce the risk of infection by limiting contact with people with suspected or confirmed cases.

– If you must have physical contact with someone who has the disease because they are healthcare workers or live with you, encourage the infected person to self-isolate and cover their skin lesions if they do. can (for example, by wearing clothes over the rash).

– You must wear a medical mask when you are physically close to them, especially if they are coughing or have sores in their mouths. Avoid skin-to-skin contact and if you have direct contact, wear disposable gloves. Wear a mask if you must touch an infected person’s clothing or bedding.

– Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after coming into contact with the infected person, their clothes (including sheets and towels) or other items or surfaces that you have touched or that may have come into contact with your rash or respiratory secretions (for example, utensils or dishes).

– Wash the infected person’s clothes, towels, bedding and kitchen utensils in hot water and detergent. Clean and disinfect all contaminated surfaces and properly dispose of contaminated waste (such as dressings).

What should I do if I think I have been infected?

– Contact your doctor immediately for medical advice, testing and care if you think you have symptoms or have been in contact with an infected person.

– If possible, isolate yourself and avoid close contact with others.

– Wash your hands frequently and follow the steps listed above to protect others from infection. Your health worker will take a sample for testing so that you can receive appropriate care.

– An antiviral agent designed for the treatment of smallpox has been approved for the treatment of monkeypox.

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