The Massachusetts Department of Health reported a patient with monkeypox virus, an infectious disease of the smallpox family that is very rare.
This case follows an outbreak so far of some 70 people sick with monkeypox in Europe, mostly in the UK, Spain and Portugal. Usually, cases of this infection are concentrated in central and western Africa.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that the Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys used for research.
The first human case of monkeypox was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). ) during a period of intensified efforts to eliminate smallpox.
Since then, cases of monkeypox have been reported in people from several other West and Central African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.
Most infections continue to occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Cases of monkeypox have occurred in people outside of Africa linked to international travel or imported animals, including cases in the United States, as well as in Israel, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
The natural reservoir for monkeypox is unknown. However, African rodents and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys) can carry the virus and infect people.
In the case of the Massachusetts patient, his only trip was to Canada, so it is suspected that there may be cases in that country.
The curious thing is that, as far as is known, monkeypox is transmitted from the infected animal to the human, the transmission from person to person is unusual. That is why the second hypothesis is that there are animals carrying the virus on this side of the ocean.
In fact, in a previous outbreak in 2003, about 50 people contracted the virus after several animals became infected from a shipment of animals from Ghana to Illinois.
Humans contracted the infection through contact with prairie dogs in several central and western states.
Monkeypox is a nasty disease.
Its symptoms are the same as in many other conditions: fever, headache, muscle pain, swollen glands, chills, and tiredness.
But the patient also develops pus-filled pustules, lesions that progress as the infection progresses.
The infection cycle lasts about two to four weeks. In Africa, it is fatal in one in 10 people who contract it.
The best prevention is not to come into contact with wild animals, and to isolate the patient. Of course, hand washing is essential.
Currently, there is no safe and proven treatment for monkeypox virus infection. To control an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States, smallpox vaccine, antivirals, and vaccinia immunoglobulin (VIG) can be used.
As in so many other viral infections, attention to symptoms and rest help the immune system to work and expel the virus.