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Healthline Monkeypox Physical Health

Monkeypox: Why it is now a health emergency, and how to avoid infection

  • Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the recent monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.
  • There are more than 16,000 reported cases of monkeypox within 75 countries and territories.
  • Monkeypox has a current fatality rate of between 3-6%.
  • A recent study found 95% of monkeypox cases between April and June 2022 occurred during sex between men.
  • Two vaccines are currently available to help protect against monkeypox.
On July 23, 2022, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declaredTrusted Source the recent monkeypox outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernTrusted Source (PHEIC).”
According to Dr. Tedros’ official press statement, this decision stems from the current monkeypox outbreak growing to more than 16,000 reported casesTrusted Source within 75 countries and territories, along with five deaths.
“I welcome the decision of the WHO Director to declare the current global monkeypox outbreak a PHEIC,” comments Dr. Boghuma K. Titanji, assistant professor of medicine at Emory University. “For several weeks now the criteria for making monkeypox a PHEIC had been met.”
“I hope that this will raise the international priority level on monkeypox and galvanize a more coordinated global response which has sadly been lacking so far,” she continues.

“It is also an opportunity to get things right on global health equity and access to resources such as testing, vaccination, antiviral medications, etc. which are areas in which historically we have seen many failures, resulting in countries with limited resources being left behind.”

– Dr. Boghuma K. Titanji

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a zoonotic virusTrusted Source, meaning it transfers from animals to humans. Some animals that can carry monkeypoxTrusted Source include various species of monkeys, giant-pouched rats, African dormice, and certain types of squirrels.

The disease belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus of viruses, which also includes smallpox. Because of that, its symptoms are generally similar to, but not as severe as those of smallpox.

Medical clinicians found the first cases of monkeypox in 1958 during two outbreaks in monkeys being kept for research.

Researchers recorded the first human caseTrusted Source of the disease in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, 11 African countries have reported cases of monkeypox.

The first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa happened in the United StatesTrusted Source in 2003. Scientists tied this incident to prairie dogs infected with monkeypox.

How does someone become infected?

As previously mentioned, monkeypox is a virus that transfers from infected animals to humans. Transfer of the virus from an animal to a human occurs through:
  • being bitten or scratched by an infected animal
  • eating meat or using products from an animal with monkeypox
  • coming into contact with an infected animal’s body fluids.
Once a human becomes infected with monkeypox, they can transfer the virus to another human through:
  • respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact
  • intimate physical contact, including kissing and sexual intercourse
  • directly touching the infectious rash or body fluids of an infected person
  • touching clothing, bedding, and other materials that have been in contact with an infected person’s rash or body fluids.
Because monkeypox is spread between humans through close contact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers guidelinesTrusted Source for people who are sexually active to protect themselves and their partners from contracting the virus.

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