Monkey pox: what is known about the prospects of a new pandemic

More than a hundred cases have already been registered on the planet, suspiciously resembling monkeypox — a relative of natural smallpox. Until 2022, patients with monkeypox were infected mainly by animals, and among people, it quickly faded, poorly transmitted by airborne droplets. But this May, the situation could change. A dozen countries on different continents have shown a simultaneous outbreak of infections. Many are trying to reassure the population, relying on the fact that vaccination against ordinary smallpox protects against a new one. The situation is far from simple, and the WHO held an emergency meeting of experts this Friday to discuss this disease. Naked Science tells whether smallpox can become a “replacement” for the coronavirus.

Many countries in Europe and North America claim that they have been diagnosed with smallpox monkeys. A message came from Spain that the country is going to buy several thousand doses of the vaccine. But at the same time, experts say that there is no specific drug for monkeypox.

Reports of detected cases come immediately from Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Italy, the UK, the USA, and Canada. The first case was recorded by the World Health Organization on May 6, and now their account goes to dozens. Monkeypox has been known for a long time. This disease has always been considered endemic, that is, peculiar to a certain geographical area. And in Europe and North America, it has so far been rare.


This is a viral disease that usually manifests itself in the form of fever, headache, back pain, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and rashes, much like chickenpox. In some cases, these rashes turn into real ulcers. Probably, now the world is faced with a mutation of the virus, but there is no reason for serious concern.


There is no specific treatment for smallpox monkeys, usually, the disease goes away by itself. There is also no specific vaccine. Although the virus is related to the smallpox virus, vaccination against it also works against monkeys. But after the black pox was declared defeated in the late 1970s, they stopped vaccinating against it. Therefore, younger generations are theoretically at risk. However, not all of them. So, in 2001, US President George W. Bush ordered the resumption of vaccination of American servicemen. It is possible that something similar can be explained by reports about the purchase of a vaccine by Spain. The precautionary measure is understandable. Moreover, in the 200 million-strong Nigeria, now, apparently, there is a situation close to an epidemic


However, scientists have yet to find out which variant of the disease we are talking about. So far, two main strains have been known: the Congo strain, which is more dangerous — the mortality rate from it reaches 10%, and the West African strain, the mortality rate from which is about 1%. As the WHO reported on May 18, all confirmed cases in the UK were caused by a West African strain. In 2003, an outbreak of monkeypox was recorded in the United States. Then about 70 cases were registered, but none were fatal.


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