Two cases of the rare disease monkeypox have been detected in North Wales this week, with both patients being hospitalized in England as a precaution.
A Public Health Wales (PHW) official confirmed that two members of the same household have been affected.
First detected in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), the disease is commonly found near tropical rainforests in Central and West African countries, with the largest outbreak ever occurring in Nigeria in 2017.
Although about 50 people in the Americas were infected with the monkeypox virus in 2003, it is unusual to see cases outside Africa – especially on such a scale.
On that occasion, the disease, which can be passed from animals to humans, spread from African rodents imported to the Americas from Ghana.
Human-to-human transmission is then possible through bodily fluids or respiratory droplets. Travelers from Nigeria spread the disease to Israel, the UK and Singapore in 2018 and 2019.
The monkeypox virus presents symptoms similar to smallpox, a more virulent disease that was eradicated after a global vaccination campaign in 1980.
Monkeypox has an incubation period of six to 16 days and infected people can develop fever, headache, back pain and general fatigue.
After the fever phase, the rash appears on areas of the patient’s body such as the face, palm of the hands and soles of the feet. These skin eruptions can then form blisters, which take several weeks to disappear.
Most cases of the virus do not cause serious illness, but some deaths have been reported in patients in West Africa.
Referring to the two cases in the UK, Richard Firth of Public Health Wales (PHW), said: “Confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK are a rare occurrence, and the risk to the general public is very low.”
“Monkeypox, in most cases, is a mild condition that will resolve on its own and has no long-term impact on a person’s health. Most people recover within a few weeks,” he said.
The disease’s name derives from the fact that it was first identified in laboratory monkeys in the late 1950s.
although World Health Organization said that it is not clear which animals act as “natural reservoirs” of the virus. However, rodents are thought to be the most likely contenders.
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