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Monkeypox: The Latest Pandemic of 2022

Fact Check: What is Monkeypox? 

Due to the recent outbreak of the tropical disease Monkeypox, many are left wondering about what the disease really is, how it spreads, and whether the outbreak could lead to another COVID-level pandemic. 

Below, we’ll be answering all your questions about the latest pandemic risk in 2022, and will be discussing the possibility of a pandemic due to this harmful illness.

What is Monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is a tropical disease originally found in Africa that causes disease-like lesions. It is not usually fatal, except in rare cases. 

The virus received its name after it was first found in a colony of Asian monkeys in a laboratory in 1958 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was only isolated from a wild monkey in Africa once. 

Monkeypox is more common in rats, squirrels, and only shrew species of animals than monkeys. It is zoonotic but rarely enters the human population. 

However, once in the human population, it spreads easily through close contact and sexual encounters. It is not currently known to be contracted through vapor or breath.

Science has shown that the quickest way to end outbreaks of Monkeypox is by isolating infected people.

Is there a current vaccine? 

Currently, there is no monkeypox-exclusive vaccine. However, during the last isolated outbreak in the 1970s, the smallpox vaccine was used to prevent the spread of Monkeypox. Though the vaccine was largely effective at mitigating the risk of both Monkeypox and smallpox, the world stopped using it in the 1970s, causing the virus to spread more virulently. 

For now, the UK and US are offering a vaccine produced by Bavarian Nordic to prevent the current spread of Monkeypox. 

When did the current outbreak of Monkeypox start? 

Where and when the current outbreak started is still unclear, though it’s suspected that the virus could have been imported from Nigeria or another tourist hotspot located in Africa. This conjecture is based on the population density rates in the continent and country, which are significantly higher than other areas of Africa.

The first patient with an identified case in 2022 had traveled from Nigeria to the UK on May 4th, but did not end up infecting anyone during travels.  After this occurrence, one patient was identified in the United States, and another in the United Arab Emirates after recent travels to Africa.

How severe is the current outbreak? 

The disease has spread across the globe, and has touched all contents apart from Antarctica. 

Monkeypox is considered to be endemic in 10 countries currently, located in West and Central Africa. These areas have recorded dozens of cases this year.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has dealt with the most cases, recording over 1000 cases in 2022 alone. 

Due to the rural nature and landscape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, most of these numbers are estimations based on local medical and treatment facilities. 

Could Monkeypox become a pandemic?

Monkeypox first surfaced in the UK on May 7th, 2022 – and so far there have been 700 suspected cases regionally.

This is the largest outbreak outside of Africa and is mostly concentrated among men who have sexual intercourse with other men. 

Other cases are being linked to transmissions at gay festivals and saunas in Canada, Spain, and Belgium. 

Many countries have stepped up their ability to deal with Monkeypox as well as tracking the current outbreak – but the world still lacks the medicines and treatments to fully tackle the outbreak. 

While this could lead to a pandemic, specifically if the virus mutates, there is little risk that it will become that virulent due to the limited nature of transmission and lower-risk symptom variation. Though the disease is spreading rapidly, no deaths related to Monkeypox have been reported yet. 

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