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What is monkeypox? Where did the infectious disease come from?

Monkeypox is a rare, viral, zoonotic disease, which comes from the monkeypox virus. The disease is mostly transmitted to people from wild animals like rodents and primates, but can also be spread through human-to-human transmission.

Monkeypox is similar to human smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980, and although much milder than smallpox, monkeypox can still be fatal.

The first case of the disease in England was confirmed earlier this month, in a patient staying at a naval base in Cornwall.

So where did monkeypox come from?

Monkeypox occurs primarily in remote parts of central and west Africa, near tropical rainforests.

According to the World Health Organization, human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The victim was a nine-year old boy, living in a region where smallpox had been eliminated two years earlier.

Since then, the majority of cases have been reported in rural, rainforest regions of the Congo Basin and western Africa.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, monkeypox is considered to be endemic. A major outbreak occurred there in 1996-97.

In 2003, monkeypox made its way to the US, marking the first reported occurrence of the disease outside of Africa.

Most of the patients were reported to have had close contact with pet prairie dogs that were infected by African rodents that had been imported into the country, according to WHO.


Since 1970, human cases of monkeypox have been reported from 10 African countries, comprising: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gabon and South Sudan.

Nigeria experienced the largest documented outbreak in 2017, approximately 40 years since the country had last confirmed cases of the disease.

“Sporadic cases of monkeypox have been reported from west and central African countries, and with increasing awareness more countries are identifying and reporting cases,” said WHO.

The disease can be passed on by humans in a manner similar to (but not quite as potently) as the flu, such as through sneezing, contaminated objects or surfaces and contact with skin lesions.

Monkeypox has a fatality rate of between one and 10 per cent, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.

There is no specific treatment or vaccine available, although the prior smallpox vaccination was “highly effective” in preventing monkeypox as well, according to WHO. – express.co.uk

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