Monkeypox infections are on the rise across Europe, with over 100 cases confirmed in the United Kingdom, with reported cases climbing in Australia and US too.
The imported rare infectious disease is endemic in central and western African countries, Public Health England reports that most cases of monkeypox are reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria, however the confirmed cases in the UK are not all travel related.
Monkeypox is similar to smallpox – both from the family Poxviridae - but less severe and less infectious . Monkeypox symptoms and infection will also be milder in those immunity from the smallpox vaccine, as vaccination against smallpox was observed to be about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.
Public Health England reports that most cases of monkeypox are reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria, however the confirmed cases in the UK are not all travel related.
The virus is contagious but does not spread easily between people, monkeypox is often spread through skin to skin contact, contact with contaminated fabric and bedding or direct from an infected animal.
Monkeypox is zoonotic disease and despite the name, the virus is originating in small mammals and rodents, not monkeys.
Public Health England says that rodents are believed to be the primary animal reservoir for transmission to humans. It has issued advice for those with monkeypox to avoid contact with their pets for 21 days - especially mice, rats, gerbils and other pet rodents.
The WHO reports that various animals are susceptible to monkeypox and therefore potential disease vectors this includes, but is not limited to, rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, and non-human primates.
Living near and in close proximity to rodents and the rainforest habitats can be a risk factor to catching the virus.
Furthermore, the consumption of bushmeat and eating inadequately cooked meat and other animal products of infected animals is a possible risk factor.
Uncertainty remains on the natural history of monkeypox virus and further studies are needed to identify the exact reservoir(s) and how virus circulation is maintained in nature - states the WHO.
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