The number of Monkeypox cases is on the rise with over 550 cases across 30 countries reported so far. According to Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of World Health Organization, the sudden appearance of Monkeypox in several countries is a cause of concern as this indicates the virus has been spreading undetected for some time now. To understand more about it, HealthWire spoke to Dr. Samir Dwivedi – Medical Director, India – International SOS. Here are the excerpts:
What are the symptoms and warning signs to look out for if someone has caught Monkeypox?
Ans. Symptoms start with fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, body aches, swollen glands and feeling of exhaustion. In about 3 days, rashes begin to appear, first on the face and then it spreads to the rest of the body. The rashes can first be reddish and then can slowly change appearance changing from pimple-like, to fluid filled lesions and then pus filled lesions, ultimately becoming dry. Usually, symptoms will last for 2-4 weeks and then disappear on their own. Fatalities are not common, nor are serious complications, which can happen only in a few people, especially those whose immune system is weak due to any reason.
How is it different from smallpox?
Ans. Symptoms of Monkeypox are milder but similar to smallpox, but with one significant difference – Monkeypox causes enlargement of lymph nodes (enlarged glands typically found in the neck region and the armpits, and some other areas of the body as well). This is called lymphadenopathy and this is not seen in Smallpox. It is important to note that smallpox has been eradicated from the world.
How easily does the virus spread, and what measures can authorities put in place to slow the spread of infection?
Ans. Monkeypox can be spread via direct contact through wounds or body fluids, respiratory droplets (prolonged and sustained face to face contact) or even through material that has been used by the patient or the infected animal. It can be transmitted during sex or hugging as well. Handling animals infected with Monkeypox can transmit the infection. Even animal products made out of infected animals can transmit the infection. Recognition of cases and isolating them at an early stage is the best way to contain the spread.
Are there currently any available treatments, such as vaccines?
Ans. The mainstay of treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Largely this is a self-limiting disease and fatalities and complications are not common. Usually, the recovery happens within 2-4 weeks. There is a vaccine against Monkeypox which has been approved by the FDA in the United States, but this is not available in India. The vaccine is made of a live and weakened virus. Antivirals exist but are not widely available.
Why is it that many of the people affected globally so far are men who identify as gay or bisexual?
Ans. Monkeypox has nothing specifically to do with gay or bisexual people, but the fact that the virus can be transmitted by sexual contact may offer some explanation. At this point, it is not known if the virus can be transmitted by semen or vaginal fluid.
It has spread to around 30 countries now. How much we Indians are at risk because of this?
Ans. The risk is always there and there is no reason to believe that Indians are protected in any way. People who have been vaccinated with smallpox may have some degree of protection from Monkeypox. It is a matter of how widespread the disease becomes and hence the importance of recognition and containment of suspected cases.