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Monkeybox: How to Protect Yourself Against the Virus | Science | In-depth report on science and technology | DW

Monkeypox infections have been reported in more than 40 countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.

In response, the World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting on June 23, where experts determine whether the disease threatens public health at large.

The WHO may declare a public health emergency of international concern, but the decision may take several days.

There is no concern about another infectious disease

What this means is that if the WHO declares an emergency, doctors must increase their focus and inform their patients about the disease.

Experts say the monkeypox is unlikely to grow into an epidemic. Unlike SARS-CoV-2, the monkeypox virus is only transmitted by close contact with the infected person.

But some groups of people, such as health workers who treat people with monkeypox or friends and family of infected people, need to take extra precautions.

How does the monkeypox spread to humans?

Despite its name, monkeys are not natural hosts of the virus. Researchers believe the main hosts, or “reservoirs,” are species of African rodents, such as Gambian bag rats, dormis and African squirrels.

The virus was first thought to have spread to humans in the 1970s by operating a bushmeat or with cuts or scratches from infected animals. Researchers say the monkeypox outbreak is a cost because of our increasing contact with wild animals due to deforestation and hunting.

An important way of spreading the monkeypox to non-African countries is through the transport of animals around the world. For example, in 2003, experts discovered a small outbreak in the US for rodents transported from Ghana to the US pet store.

Monkey Pax Rash

This type of rash is a hallmark of Mangan’s disease

Transmission from man to man

In the current outbreak, most of the infected clusters seem to have no direct travel links to African countries where the virus is endemic in wild animals. Monkeypox refers primarily to man-to-man transmission.

The exact mechanism of transmission is unknown, but it is thought that the virus enters the body through a broken skin, breathing area, or eye, nose, or mouth.

Transmission between humans occurs primarily through close contact with an infected person.

A cluster of cases were discovered in early 2022 among men who had sex with other men, which created stigma and the monkeypox was mistakenly labeled as a “gay disease” – or only infecting same-sex couples.

The WHO says the virus can be transmitted by any group of people who are in close contact.

And it is currently unknown whether the virus is specifically transmitted through sexual transmission.

How to Prevent Transmission

Anyone who has contact with infected people – for example, medical and health care workers or people who have confirmed cases of monkeypox among their friends or relatives – should take protective measures.

The WHO states that these are important steps to prevent transmission:

  • Avoid skin contact with people who may be infected
  • Always use a condom during sex
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
  • Coughing and sneezing of your arm

How smallpox vaccination protects against monkeypox

Many people over the age of 50 have been vaccinated against smallpox (also known as the variola virus) as children. Smallpox has the same symptoms as the monkeypox but is now considered eradicated by the vaccine.

Doctors say smallpox vaccination protects against monkeypox with about 85% effectiveness. Although it does not prevent infection, immune people are better protected against severe infections, he says.

A person draws a dose of a monkeypox vaccine with a syringe

The smallpox vaccine protects against monkey disease

The smallpox vaccine Immunex has been approved in many countries as a protection against monkeypox. However, it is currently not recommended for the general public as a prevention against monkeypox, but only for certain risk groups.

The German Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination in these cases:

  • For people who have close contact with an infected person
  • People who have monkeypox risk, such as men who have sex with men or who frequently change partners or have laboratory staff testing samples of manganese disease

Vaccination consists of two doses. Medical professionals perform them at least 28 days apart. For individuals who are at risk of being vaccinated against smallpox during childhood, one dose is sufficient to improve the existing immune response.

The sick should separate themselves

Anyone who develops symptoms such as rash, fever, or head and joint pain may have a monkeypox. Those affected should call their doctor and local health authority immediately.

Infected individuals must separate themselves from other people until the rash clears. It can take up to four weeks. In most cases, the disease has a mild course.

This article was originally written in German.

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