Keep calm and don’t be rash.
I am getting lots of panic about Monkeypox. This is a virus usually found in Africa which has been spreading in certain communities in Europe. It has now spread to America, Canada and Australia and the UK. The case numbers are small. There have been no reported cases in Trinidad and Tobago.
Why is it called “Monkeypox” and How is it related to “Smallpox?”
It was originally discovered in 1970 in monkeys hence the name. It is related to another virus that used to be a big problem for us, called Smallpox. Luckily it’s not as dangerous. Some of you, my age or older may have a scar from that Smallpox vaccine. (See a picture of mine below). Consider it a badge of honour as those vaccines were responsible for the WHO being able to declare Smallpox eradicated from the population in 1980. Therefore, large scale vaccination of the population against Smallpox was able to be discontinued. However, because there are still people who work with Smallpox in the lab, these people still need to be vaccinated.
How is it Spread?
It does not spread easily, as it needs close contact (skin to skin) or prolonged droplet contact. People who share towels/beds can also spread it to each other. Contact with infected animals is also a source.The recent limited outbreak has been linked to a sauna in Spain, with a LGBTQ get together. –
What does it Cause?
Flu like symptoms, enlarged lymph nodes, followed by a blistering rash much like Chickenpox, which starts in the face and can spread to body and genitals. The symptoms usually start around a few days to 3 weeks after exposure. It is much less severe and infectious than Smallpox.
What’s the Treatment?
Like Chickenpox, It clears up on it’s own in a few weeks with the vesicles (blisters) drying up and scabs falling off. There are also antiviral treatments in the same family as used to treat Chickenpox.
Can it kill me?
Very very rarely….just like Chickenpox! People who are very elderly, immunocompromised or very young are more at risk.
Are there vaccines?
Luckily, the older population, born before 1976, has already been vaccinated with Smallpox. Smallpox is family to Monkeypox and recent Smallpox vaccine is thought to convey about 85% protection. You can see if you have been vaccinated by checking to see if you have a scar on your upper outer arm – a picture of mine is below. You can also see I have my original International Vaccination Card with a record of having received it. However, we don’t know how much protection the Smallpox vaccine I had over 40 years ago will protect me from Monkeypox as I have not had any recent boosters. There is also a more specific Monkeypox vaccine which was developed in 2019. The vaccines have some effect up to 14 days after exposure to the Monkeypox virus. For more information see this CDC leaflet: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/smallpox-vaccine.html . It is likely that the recent limited outbreaks in Europe will require something called “ring” vaccination where people known to have been exposed will be offered a vaccine.
For more information see the factsheet below. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/monkeypox