Genetic keys and how it can be spread

Samples of smallpox are being studied at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Samples of smallpox are being studied at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
picture: Judy Grisedyek / Star Tribune (Getty Images)

cases monkey smallpox The uprising continues around the world, with more than 200 confirmed and suspected cases reported in more than 200 countries. Researchers are beginning to gather evidence that these epidemics, including the virus, are spreading at an unprecedented rate.

In accordance with tracker From the Global.health group, 174 confirmed and 93 suspected cases from 21 countries were registered on Tuesday afternoon. The United Kingdom and Spain reported the most cases, and at least seven cases were reported in the United States, including one in New York. No casualties have been reported so far; Around 1% of monkey smallpox virus strains are known to be fatal.

The viral disease Causes large blisters on the body along with flu-like symptoms. Symptoms can last up to three weeks after onset and up to two weeks for recovery. The virus is spread primarily through direct contact, but can also be spread through contaminated surfaces and respiratory droplets and aerosols. Sick people are not considered contagious until they have symptoms.

Smallpox, closely related to the now extinct smallpox virus, is endemic in parts of Africa and is thought to be commonly transmitted to rodents. Since its discovery in the 1950s, it has been confined to humans, occasionally jumping from animals to humans, causing localized epidemics. This is very different from previous attacks by the virus. But we may have the first signs of what is happening.

Electron microscopy of a lone monkey virus.

Electron microscopy of a lone monkey virus.
picture: Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner / via CDC AP (AP)

Some researchers have been able to genetically sort virus samples collected from patients. These are results The strains in these cases are thought to be closely related to the strains recently collected from Nigeria, where the epidemic has been ongoing since 2018. So far, at least, there seems to be no evidence that the virus has mutated in any significant way since then, which is convincing. However, further research is needed to rule out the possibility that it could somehow become contagious among humans.

“There have been human-to-human transmission in the past, but it is very limited. We do not yet know how it spreads easily from person to person. That’s a possible explanation, but I don’t know any evidence to support that idea, “Andrew Pavia, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Utah, told Gizmodo last week.

If the virus does not change radically, these epidemics may be due to other factors, including how it is currently being controlled. Many cases have been found in young gay and bisexual men who have recently been active. He is a consultant to the World Health Organization argued Its spread may have been exacerbated by two recent raids on casual sex in Spain and Belgium.

While this may be true, it does not mean that only gay or bisexual men are at risk, because the virus can be transmitted through direct contact between different sexual partners. These cases may also be the first to be discovered, as these people generally have a better understanding of the risk of sexually transmitted infections and, as a result, seek medical attention regularly. Popular dating app Grindr on Tuesday to feel User warns users about smallpox and suggests seeking medical attention if they or a recent sexual partner develop unusual sores or rashes.

Other experts say that after the virus was eradicated in 1980, it is now more prevalent due to a decline in immunity to the smallpox virus. Poxviruses often create cross-immunity to other poxviruses, but this protection has been lost over time. According to Joe Walker, he is an epidemiologist and model of infectious diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.

Walker told the Gizmodo newspaper last week: “This ‘decline in immunity’ is less due to a decrease in immunity at the individual level, and is associated with mortality and the birth of people who are not immune and then maintain immunity.”

The risk of monkey disease for the population is still considered low. But for now, Pavia says: There is no cause for panic or any concern for most people. “but the These are the first days, so that may change, ”he said.

Indeed, hThere are health workers in Europe warned If these epidemics are not contained quickly and effectively enough, the virus could spread to new parts of the world and continue to cause epidemics. Smallpox can be managed with preventive vaccines and treatments, but the latest thing in the world right now is a new infectious disease.

This article has been updated with comments from Andrew Pavia and Joe Walker.

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