Monkeypox – why all the excitement? 

Monkeypox is hitting the headlines! Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, the Medical Director of Medical Imaging Partnership and Prime Health reviews the situation in the UK on monkeypox and shares his thoughts on the subject.

A topic that has certainly been grabbing recent headlines is Monkeypox. It seemed to have come out of nowhere and people are begging to question whether the next pandemic is lining up on the starting blocks. 

Firstly a few facts; up to 30th May the UK had seen 90 cases, with a global figure of near 500. 

What is Monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is a virus similar in structure to smallpox. As its name suggests, it was first identified in monkeys and is confined mainly to Central and West Africa. 

It typically causes mild symptoms including fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and a chickenpox like rash, often starting on the face before spreading to the hands and feet. Most people recover within 14-21 days without treatment. 

There are two separate strains, the Congo strain and the West African strain. The Congo strain has a death rate of 1-10%, whilst the West African strain leads to death in approximately 1% of cases; this is the strain that has been identified in the UK. 

Are children affected by Monkeypox? 

Children infected with monkeypox are more likely than adults to become seriously ill. 

How does Monkeypox spread?

Spread usually occurs through large respiratory droplets, mainly due to face-to-face contact; however, the virus also spreads through bodily fluids. Many of the recent cases have been associated with men having sex with men. 

What is the treatment for Monkeypox? 

There are no specific treatments for monkeypox, but the smallpox vaccine has been shown to be up to 85% effective in preventing the infection. In addition, some antiviral medicines are also being used to control the outbreak. 

This doesn’t appear to have the hallmark of a pandemic. It’s primarily confined to specific groups and is spread by close physical contact, including sex. So why all the excitement? 

This outbreak will likely be contained and managed using traditional public health contact tracing measures, isolation, and active management of contacts. However, any virus that lives in animals and moves across to people is a cause for concern. Jumping between species can lead to mutations and to a very different virus.

That’s the worry.

The interface between man and animals is the battleground where we must fight to stop the next pandemic. 

Paul Zollinger-Read CBE

Group Medical Director 

The views expressed in the blog are my own personal views and are not intended as medical advice.

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