Monkeypox recently caught attention after identification of the first patient with the disease in Singapore, notifying WHO of the confirmed diagnosis on May 9 2019. There have been concerns that the disease could spread to other countries, including Indonesia that has close borders with Singapore.
What is Monkeypox? How is it transmitted? What are the symptoms? Can it be cured and prevented? This month’s Scientific Corner would attempt to give quick, clear answers to these questions.
Monkeypox is a rare viral zoonosis disease caused by Human Monkeypox Virus. The disease was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, the majority of cases have been found in other central and western African countries. Transmission of the virus can result from direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals. Person-to-person transmission is possible.
The incubation period of monkeypox can range from 5 to 21 days. Some early symptoms include fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy, back pain, and myalgia. Various stages of rash would then appear, often beginning on the face, which is the most affected part along with the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, before spreading to other body parts. Monkeypox is usually self-limited, with symptoms lasting 14-21 days. Severe cases occur mainly in children and are related to the extent of virus exposure, health status, and severity of complications. The mortality varies, but has been less than 10% in documented events.
A definitive diagnosis can only be done by virus identification through laboratory tests, although identification of the clinical symptoms is an important first step to diagnose the disease. For confirmed cases of monkeypox, unfortunately, there are no specific treatments or vaccines available. However, vaccination against smallpox has been proven to be 85% effective in preventing monkeypox in the past.
A new case of infectious disease would understandably cause worry. However, the patient in Singapore had been supervised, with people who had had contact with them quarantined. It is rational to be cautious, it is sensible to spread knowledge of a particular disease. It is not wise, however, to overreact and cause panics or spread false beliefs and fear. Any problem is best handled clear-headed, especially one involving viruses and a wide group of people.
"Synergizing Diversity, Thriving in Unity"
WHO. Monkeypox Facts Sheets. World Health Organization. June 2018
Durski, Kara N., et al. Emergence of monkeypox—west and central Africa, 1970–2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 67 10. 2018