A veterinary pathologist shares his perspective on the monkey outbreak

Dr. Amy McNeil is a veterinary pathologist who studies and teaches smallpox viruses at Colorado State University.

Fort Collins, Colo. – Dr. Amy McNeill researches and teaches smallpox viruses at Colorado State University (CSU). He is an associate professor of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of KSU.

Dr. McNeil spoke with 9News’ Jennifer Meckles to explain what he knows about monkeypox and its impact on animal species.

This interview has been edited for context and length.

9NEWS: Tell us more about the smallpox virus family

Smallpox viruses are a very large group of viruses that can infect most animals on the planet. Avian pox viruses are found in goats, sheep, cattle, and humans. The monkeypox virus is a subgroup of smallpox called the orthopoxviruses, and it’s a very important subgroup because one of its members was smallpox, which was a dangerous infection for humans that we eradicated through vaccination.

“Monkeypox was called ‘monkeypox’ because it was first isolated and found in monkeys, but we don’t really think it’s a reservoir. We think that the reservoir of the virus is some squirrels and rodents… So monkeys, like us, are very good at causing monkeypox.

9News: As you watch this outbreak, is the monkeypox virus playing out the way you expected it to? Is it evolving as quickly as we saw the mutation of COVID-19?

“They have sequenced some isolates from this new outbreak and there is no significant change in the genetics of this virus compared to previous outbreaks. So it didn’t come out like COVID that changed its genome and now it’s something new. It’s been a long time coming.”

9News: Tell us more about the spread of the virus in past outbreaks and today.

“It’s usually a relationship with pets or other types of animals. A person gets infected and then unwittingly spreads it to a family member or someone they touch or eat or something like that.”

“We can observe [past outbreaks] Here, people – often young children – came into contact with wild animals, squirrels or rodents, or during the 2003 outbreak in the United States, prairie dogs were transported from Africa with the rodents. .”

“Unfortunately, that’s what we’re seeing [in this current outbreak] There is a lot of person-to-person transmission for many people [sexual] partners”.

“From what we know, the most common way of transmission is through contact. But we do know that the virus can be transmitted through what we call a “fomite,” a piece of clothing or something a person wears. And if you touch those clothes, you can catch the virus.”

9News: What do we know about the severity of this type of monkeypox?

“There are two types of monkeypox virus known to us, one isolated from West Africa and the other from the Congo Basin region. Mostly Congo region [strain] It’s a bit of a pain. Both are dangerous, but fortunately they are dealing with a less serious illness, so hopefully there will be fewer deaths.”

“But way [the current outbreak] It’s not surprising that it’s spreading, I think we’re dealing with a less severe one. I think some people may be less affected, or not even aware that they have ulcers [initially] for they are in the cavity of the mouth or nose, or in the anus, and therefore they do not see them at first.’

9News: With your interest in the smallpox virus, what are you observing about this outbreak?

“My main concern, and the concern of many other smallpox virologists I’ve talked to, is that there will be reverse transmission of the monkeypox virus to animal populations that have allowed it to become endemic in other parts of the world. For so long it has been endemic only to species in Africa. Now, I think it’s quite possible that it will become endemic in the US or Europe.”

“We’d better contain it before it gets into any of our wildlife so it doesn’t become endemic here.”

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