The smallpox cases of European monkeys raise an alarm

2022/05/19 Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana - Elhuyar Zientzia Iturria: Elhuyar aldizkaria

Monkey smallpox causes striking skin rashes. Ed. CDC/Public Domain

On 7 May, the first cases of monkey pox were reported in the UK, the first, apparently in a passenger from Africa. Since then, cases have appeared in several European countries, mostly in people who have not been present in Africa, and as the number of cases increases, the concern is growing.

Monkey smallpox is a zoonotic virus, that is, created in animals, that has acquired the ability to infect and transmit to humans. Since the disappearance of smallpox (Variola virus) from the city was achieved, it is the most important orthopoxvirus affecting humans.

The virus was first identified in apes and, as it caused a smallpox-like disease, it was called monkey pox. But mostly they transmit it to rats and rodents. In the people, it was first identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who did not have the smallpox vaccine in place.) Outside Africa, in 2003 its first appearance was confirmed in the U.S., where rodents removed from Africa contaminated and maintained close contact with domesticated shepherd dogs.

Transmission, symptoms and prevention

It is currently endemic in the Congo basin and especially in the Democratic Republic of Africa. Outside it, the cases are very exceptional. The first infections occur through close contact with sick animals and are transmitted from person to person by close contact with secretions of skin lesions or respiratory tract. It can also be transmitted by inoculation or during squares.

There are two main variants, one more benign in West Africa and one more malignant in Central Africa. The lethality of the latter can be as high as 10% (it also depends directly on the state of health and scarcity of resources).

During the first days of infection symptoms are fever, severe headache, lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes), back pain, myalgia (muscle aches), and severe asthenia (fatigue). Skin rashes or rashes appear later, especially on the face, hands, and .In healthy people, it is usually cured on its own and some antivirals can help.

The most important prevention measure is to avoid direct contact with infected people. In fact, the smallpox vaccine produces cross-immunity, which means it protects against smallpox from monkeys. This vaccine is no longer available, but continues to work with the smallpox virus thanks to samples stored in two laboratories: Atlanta (USA) and Koltsovon (Russia). In fact, the year 2019 allowed for a new version of the monkey’s smallpox and smallpox vaccine, which is currently unavailable.


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