After more than two years of COVID-19, seeing how monkeypox spreads to more and more countries brings back very unpleasant memories. There is already talk about the possibility of it becoming that new pandemic that both warned us that it could arrive. But how likely is that?
The truth is that, luckily, the probability of this happening is very low. It is true that it is scary to see how it expands. In just a few weeks, confirmed cases outside of Africa are approaching two hundred.
58 of them have been detected in Spain, which is also one of the most affected countries. But more and more people have a monkeypox patient within their borders.
First was United Kingdom, later Spain and Portugal. And later it was the turn of the United States, Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
It’s not turkey mucus, of course. But it is enough to look at the figures of the first weeks of the outbreak that gave rise to the COVID-19 pandemic to verify that monkeypox is not behaving the same. And it is not doing it for several reasons.
Monkeypox is not a new disease
monkey pox was first detected in 1958, in a laboratory ape. Later, the first human case was diagnosed in 1970 in a 9-year-old boy residing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Since then, cases have been detected in 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.
Nigeria is one of the worst affected countries, with some 500 suspected and 200 confirmed cases since 2017. Cases of monkeypox outside of Africa are much rarer, but this was not the first time the virus had left the continent.
There have been some isolated outbreaks in countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom. For example, in 2003 one occurred in the North American country with dozens of patients.
This time it was the export of prairie dogs sold as pets the one that brought the pathogen out of Africa. This time it may have been the movement of travelers. But, be that as it may, what is clear is that it is not an unknown disease.
We have vaccines and many people are already immunized
There is no specific vaccine for monkey pox approved in Europe. However, it is estimated that the smallpox vaccine offers 85% protection.
This is great news, since the vaccine was administered widely to the entire population until 1980when smallpox was considered eradicated. For this reason, people over 42-45 years of age are very well protected.
In addition, there are some vaccines that have their approval for risk health or military and they could easily get an emergency approval for the rest of the population.
On the other hand, there is also antiviral drugs that have been shown to be effective against monkeypox. It seems that all the cases detected so far are mild, but if the situation of a seriously ill person were to occur, there would be medications with which to treat it.
Contagion is very complicated for a pandemic
Pandemics usually occur with highly contagious diseases and difficult to detect.
Monkeypox requires a very close contact for contagion to occur. This is usually caused by direct contact with discharge from skin lesions and other fluids of the sick.
This also includes some respiratory secretions. Nevertheless, not transmitted by aerosols like COVID-19, so massive infections without direct contact would be very unlikely.
On the other hand, people are usually contagious when they already have the lesions on their body. These injuries are very easy to identify, so it would be easy to detect and isolate the sick. At the beginning, when the outbreak was not yet known, some of them may have led a more or less normal life.
But now that the magnitude of the problem is known, containment measures should be effective. That would make it very difficult for monkeypox to become a pandemic.
Monkeypox is a very stable virus
Viruses of the genus Orthopoxvirus, to which monkeypox and humanpox belong, are DNA viruses. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a RNA viruses. The latter are much more unstable. Tend to mutate more and therefore it is much easier for them to escape vaccinations or become more contagious.
With monkeypox this would be a very rare scenario due to its great stability. There is more to see that the same vaccine has worked for decades.
For all this, we should not fear a monkeypox pandemic. We should not make sweeping statements so it would also be wrong to say that it is impossible. However, it seems that there are reasons for calm.
Of course, we must be vigilant and, in case of experiencing suspicious symptoms, isolate ourselves and call a hospital where they tell us how we should proceed.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.