Dr. Zorba Paster: What you need to know about monkeypox | Health, Medicine and Fitness
Let’s talk about monkeypox, something you might have heard about in the news lately. Here is a brief history, how to protect yourself from it and how worrying it can be. So let’s go.
Monkeypox is a virus from the same family as smallpox, the virus that causes smallpox. The symptoms are similar to smallpox – more on how to recognize it later – but monkeypox is much, much milder. It is rarely fatal. It has nothing to do with chickenpox or shingles.
The disease was first discovered in a research laboratory in 1958, when epidemics occurred in several colonies of monkeys. These early scientists and others named it monkeypox, probably thinking it might be an epidemic in monkeys.
We don’t really know when this virus first started infecting monkeys or humans, but the first recorded case in humans was in 1970. For the most part, it has been confined to parts of West Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic. of the Congo, which has been particularly affected over the years.
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Prior to this outbreak, most cases were limited to international travelers or people who had come into contact with imported exotic animals. Most infected animals are spread by handling them, biting or scratching them, or eating meat infected with the virus.
We now know, especially since this outbreak, that the virus is spread 99% of the time through direct person-to-person contact, with skin-to-skin contact being the most common mode of spread.
There is some evidence that the virus could be spread through airborne droplets, but we don’t know definitively if this is the case. It’s the monkeypox lesions, the sores, that have the virus. And there is evidence that even a week after the sores have crusted over, there is still a chance that the virus will persist.
So, friends, think about sex. Think about people having sex with each other. They touch each other skin to skin. This is where most, almost all, infections occur. There is evidence that it could be spread through semen, which is a common part of the sexual act when men have sex. But if sperm is a problem, it’s really minor.
The current epidemic is now primarily in the gay community, with men who have sex with men being the primary focus. Since any male or female with monkeypox can transmit it to another person through this direct skin-to-skin contact, sex is the primary transmission activity.
Now, what about the symptoms? First, you have the incubation phase, when you have caught the virus but are feeling fine with no symptoms. This can range from just three days to just over two weeks.
You then enter the active phase of the disease. Many people are also asymptomatic throughout this phase. Some have minimal symptoms, while others have the full problem, including fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, and a rash that blisters and then scabs. If you want to see what it looks like, just google it.
When it comes to wounds, there are four stages. All sores appear on your body at the same stage at the same time during the illness. They begin as flat, red sores called the macular stage. Then they progress to a raised stage called a papule, followed by the vesicular stage, swollen with fluid below. Finally, they enter the pustular stage, oozing pus from the wound, before beginning to evolve into a flat scab. They look different from chickenpox, which most people my age got when they were kids.
US health officials are calling it a public health emergency so education, funds, treatments and vaccines are available. But for those of us who aren’t in close contact with people with monkeypox, the chances of catching it are almost non-existent.
Federal officials are debating whether to call it a sexually transmitted disease because that’s how it appears to be spreading in the United States. There is some merit in this, in that we can work with at-risk communities to get rid of this new viral outbreak. before it becomes endemic. Once it is endemic, that is to say present in the population and arising at will, it becomes more difficult to treat.
My turn : Familiarize yourself with monkeypox lesions, especially if you are in a high-risk group. Remember that direct skin-to-skin contact is the most common mode of transmission. And look for more monkeypox in this space next week. Stay well.
This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No continuing relationship of any kind is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to persons submitting questions. All opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the opinions of SSM Health.