The test tubes marked “Monkey smallpox virus positive and negative” can be seen in this illustration taken on May 23, 2022.
Ruvic Dice | Reuters
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stepped up its anti-monkey screening program, urging travelers to take extra precautions, including wearing masks as there are more than 1,000 global cases of the virus.
On Monday, the CDC raised its warning to level 2, urging people to “take precautionary measures” to stop the epidemic that has spread to 29 non-endemic countries in the past month. The highest level warning – Level 3 – warns against unimportant travel.
While the public health authority says the risk to the general public remains low, it urges vigilantes not to come into close contact with sick people, including those with skin or genital injuries, as well as sick or dead animals. He also urges those who show signs of the virus, such as skin rashes or sores, to avoid contact with others and to seek medical attention.
Smallpox is a rare disease caused by the smallpox virus, including rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain.
It is commonly endemic in Central and West African countries, but recent epidemics in North America, Europe, and Australia have surprised health professionals and threatened to spread the community.
According to the CDC, as of Monday, there were 1,019 confirmed and suspected cases of monkey disease in 29 countries. The UK has already registered the highest number of cases, 302 suspected and confirmed infections. It is followed by Spain with 198, Portugal with 153 and Canada with 80.
Health experts are looking for information on the source of the epidemic, which has historically been associated with travel from endemic countries. The World Health Organization’s technical director for smallpox said on Wednesday that the virus could be transmitted undiagnosed for “weeks, months or maybe years” in non-endemic countries.
The United States has identified two species of monkeys
Until recently, the current epidemic was thought to be caused by a West African strain of the virus, which causes less disease than other variants and is 1% fatal.
However, the CDC said on Friday that at least two genetically different monkey smallpox variants are currently prevalent in the United States, exacerbating unrest among health professionals. The United States has reported a total of 30 cases of the virus.
“Although they are similar, their genetic analysis shows that they are not related to each other,” said Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s High-Income Pathogens and Pathology Division, at a press briefing on Friday. . .
McQuiston said the two strains could have originated from two different conditions in which the virus spread from animals in Africa to humans and from person to person.
Professor Eyal Leshem, an infectious disease specialist at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, told CNBC on Monday that the spread of the virus to non-endemic countries was not surprising given the frequency and ease of international travel and human-animal interactions.
“Local outbreaks can now be easily spread across countries and continents,” Leshem said.
“At the same time, human-animal interactions have intensified. Climate change has forced some animals to be in close contact with humans, and you see more of these diseases,” he added.
Most cases of smallpox in monkeys are mild and usually resolve within two to four weeks, but the United States said Monday that there are 36,000 doses of the appropriate vaccine sent to people at high risk for the virus. Some European countries, including the United Kingdom and Spain, have announced similar measures to stop the spread of the disease.
Smallpox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but according to the CDC, the majority of cases are sexually transmitted, especially in men who have had sex.