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Back 07 Jun, 2024 - Health awareness


Mpox: Everything you need to know

Mpox: Everything you need to know

The Department of Health recently reported cases of mpox. Here’s what you need to know.
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The Department of Health recently reported a few new cases of mpox*, formerly known as monkeypox. Although mpox is a rare viral infection that is usually only accompanied by mild symptoms, it can pose serious health risks. Here’s what you need to know.

Where does mpox come from?

Mpox is part of the Poxviridae family of viruses called Orthopoxvirus. Smallpox and cowpox form part of this family.

The former name monkeypox originates from the first recorded cases of this disease in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research. Monkeys, however, are not the main carriers of this virus.

Scientists suspect it is spread by small rodents and squirrels in the rainforests of Africa. There are two types (strains) of mpox: Central African and West African. Central African mpox leads to more severe infections and is more likely to cause death than West African mpox.


How is it transmitted?

The first cases outside of Africa were reported in 2003 in the United States of America (USA). A shipment of infected rodents from Ghana transmitted the virus to dogs in Texas, infecting 47 people.

In 2021, mpox was found in an American citizen who travelled from Nigeria to the USA. Since May 2022, nearly 90 000 cases have been reported in more than 100 countries.

Mpox is transmitted through contact with an infected person or animal or infected surfaces. It enters the body through a sore or cut on the skin, inhalation, or the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Researchers believe that human-to-human transmission occurs mostly through the inhalation of large respiratory droplets rather than direct contact with bodily fluids or indirect contact through clothing. Human-to-human transmission rates are low.


Be on the lookout for these symptoms

After the virus enters the body, it begins to rapidly multiply and spread throughout the body via the bloodstream. Symptoms usually only appear one to two weeks after infection.

Flu-like symptoms occur and range from fever to headache, muscle aches, back pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. One to ten days later, a rash may appear on the arms, legs, head, or torso that eventually turns into blisters filled with pus. The symptoms usually last for two to four weeks, while the rash will form scabs within 14 to 21 days.

Although anyone can get mpox, it is more common in children and people who were not vaccinated against smallpox as children. Mpox can be fatal in up to 10% of cases.


Diagnosis and treatment

Because mpox is rare, it can easily be confused with other diseases that are also accompanied by a rash, such as measles, chickenpox, or even smallpox. Swollen lymph nodes are one clue that it may be mpox.

To diagnose mpox, a tissue sample can be taken and examined under a microscope. A blood sample can also show the presence of the virus or antibodies produced by your immune system.

There is currently no proven treatment for mpox. A healthcare provider will monitor the patient’s condition and try to relieve the symptoms, but most people get better without treatment.

*The World Health Organization decided at the end of 2022 to change the name monkeypox to mpox over a one-year period after heavy criticism that this term could be offensive.

Sources: The Lancet; Maroela Media; Cleveland Clinic; CDC; Scientific American; Live Science; and MedicineNet.

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