Monkeypox’s Outbreak: Scars of a Global Outbreak


monkeypox virus

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that typically occurs in Central and West Africa, although sporadic cases have been reported in other regions. The disease was first identified in laboratory monkeys in 1958, hence the name “monkeypox.” It belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes the variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox.

Transmission of monkeypox to humans primarily occurs through contact with infected animals, such as rodents or monkeys, or through human-to-human transmission via respiratory droplets or direct contact with skin lesions. The virus can cause a range of symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, and a distinctive rash that often starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.

Most cases of monkeypox are mild and self-limiting, with symptoms resolving within a few weeks. However, severe cases can occur, particularly in immunocompromised individuals, and complications such as pneumonia may arise. There is no specific treatment for monkeypox, but supportive care can help manage symptoms and complications.

Prevention of monkeypox relies on public health measures such as surveillance, isolation of cases, and vaccination of at-risk populations. While there is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, the smallpox vaccine has been used in some instances to prevent the disease or reduce its severity. Additionally, measures such as hand hygiene, wearing masks, and avoiding contact with sick individuals can help prevent the spread of the virus.

While monkeypox is considered a rare disease, outbreaks can occur, and vigilance in surveillance and control measures is essential to prevent its spread and minimize its impact on public health.

Discover and Historymonkeypox Disease

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research purposes. The disease was initially identified in captive monkeys in the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Subsequently, similar outbreaks were reported in other research facilities, including in the United States and Africa.

The first human cases of monkeypox were documented in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire). The outbreak occurred in a rural area near the town of Basankusu, where individuals who handled infected animals, particularly rodents, contracted the disease. The outbreak resulted in approximately 400 cases, with mortality rates ranging from 1% to 10%.

Since the initial discovery, monkeypox has been sporadically reported in Central and West Africa, primarily in rural areas where people have close contact with infected animals. The virus is believed to circulate among various animal species, including rodents and primates, serving as reservoir hosts.

In 2003, an outbreak of monkeypox occurred in the United States, marking the first time the disease was reported outside of Africa. The outbreak was linked to pet prairie dogs that were imported from Africa and sold as exotic pets. This event raised awareness of the potential for international spread of the virus through the exotic pet trade.

Over the years, several outbreaks of monkeypox have been reported in various African countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic. Efforts to control the disease typically involve surveillance, isolation of cases, and vaccination of at-risk populations, particularly in areas where outbreaks occur.

While monkeypox is considered a rare disease, continued vigilance and research are necessary to better understand its transmission dynamics, potential for international spread, and to develop effective prevention and control strategies.

monky pox

Virus Type

Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, which is a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus. Orthopoxviruses are a family of large, complex DNA viruses that also includes variola virus (the causative agent of smallpox), vaccinia virus (used in smallpox vaccination), and cowpox virus.

there are two primary clades, or genetic lineages, of the monkeypox virus: Clade I and Clade II.

    1. Clade I: This clade is primarily associated with outbreaks in Central and West Africa. It includes strains of the virus that have caused human monkeypox cases in regions such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic. Clade I strains have been responsible for most human monkeypox cases reported in Africa.
    2. Clade II: This clade is associated with monkeypox outbreaks outside of Africa. Notably, the 2003 outbreak in the United States was caused by a Clade II strain. Clade II strains have also been identified in other countries outside of Africa, highlighting the potential for international spread of the virus.Monkeypox virus can spread through several routes:
      1. Direct Contact: The virus can spread from person to person through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or lesions, such as through touching or kissing an infected individual. This is the primary mode of human-to-human transmission.
      2. Respiratory Droplets: Monkeypox virus can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Close contact with respiratory secretions from an infected individual can lead to transmission of the virus.
      3. Contact with Infected Animals: The virus is naturally maintained in various animal species, including rodents and primates. People can become infected through direct contact with infected animals or their body fluids, such as through handling or hunting infected animals, or through bites and scratches.
      4. Contaminated Objects: Monkeypox virus can survive on surfaces for a limited period. Contact with contaminated objects or surfaces, followed by touching the face or mucous membranes, can result in transmission of the virus.
      5. Zoonotic Transmission: Monkeypox virus can occasionally spill over from its natural animal hosts to humans. This typically occurs in regions where people have close contact with infected animals, such as in rural areas where hunting, farming, or bushmeat consumption is common.

      Preventing the spread of monkeypox involves implementing measures such as isolation of infected individuals, practicing good hand hygiene, wearing masks, and avoiding contact with sick individuals or potentially infected animals. Vaccination may also be used in outbreak settings to prevent transmission and reduce the severity of the disease.

The monkeypox virus shares similarities with variola virus, particularly in terms of its genetic makeup and clinical presentation. However, monkeypox is generally less severe than smallpox, with a lower mortality rate.

Within the monkeypox virus itself, there are different strains or clades that have been identified through genetic analysis. These strains may exhibit slight variations in their genetic sequences and biological properties. Understanding the diversity of monkeypox virus strains is important for epidemiological surveillance and vaccine development efforts.

The risk of severe disease in mpox can be influenced by several factors, including the patient’s age, underlying health conditions, and the specific strain of the virus. Here’s a detailed look at the factors influencing the risk of severe disease in mpox:

Factors Influencing Risk of Severe Disease

  1. Age:
    • Children: Younger individuals, especially children under the age of 8, are at higher risk for severe outcomes.
    • Older Adults: Elderly individuals may also have an increased risk due to a generally weaker immune response.
  2. Immunocompromised Individuals:
    • People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or those undergoing immunosuppressive treatments, are at greater risk of severe disease.
  3. Pregnancy:
    • Pregnant women can experience more severe disease, and there is also a risk to the fetus, including congenital mpox or stillbirth.
  4. Pre-existing Health Conditions:
    • Individuals with chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory illnesses may experience more severe symptoms and complications.
  5. Nutritional Status:
    • Malnourished individuals may have a higher risk of severe disease due to compromised immunity.
  6. Strain of the Virus:
    • Different strains of the monkeypox virus (Central African and West African clades) vary in their virulence. The Central African strain is known to cause more severe disease compared to the West African strain.

Clinical Presentation and Complications

The clinical course of mpox can range from mild to severe, with complications including:

  • Severe Skin Lesions: Extensive and painful skin lesions can lead to secondary bacterial infections.
  • Respiratory Complications: Severe respiratory symptoms can occur, including pneumonia.
  • Neurological Complications: Encephalitis and other neurological complications can develop in severe cases.
  • Ocular Complications: Eye infections can lead to vision problems or blindness.

Case Fatality Rates

The case fatality rate (CFR) varies based on the strain:

  • Central African Clade: Historically associated with higher CFRs, sometimes reaching up to 10%.
  • West African Clade: Typically associated with lower CFRs, generally less than 1%.

Prevention and Treatment

Preventive measures include:

  • Vaccination: The smallpox vaccine (particularly the newer, non-replicating vaccinia vaccine) can provide cross-protection against mpox.
  • Isolation: Infected individuals should be isolated to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Public Health Measures: Awareness and education about the disease, its transmission, and preventive measures.

Treatment is generally supportive, addressing symptoms and complications. Antiviral agents like tecovirimat (ST-246) have shown promise in treating mpox.


The risk of severe disease in mpox is multifactorial, involving host factors (such as age, immune status, and comorbidities), viral factors (strain virulence), and access to healthcare. Understanding these factors can help in managing and preventing severe outcomes in mpox infections.

Overall, the monkeypox virus is a significant public health concern in regions where it is endemic, and continued research is essential to better understand its biology, transmission dynamics, and potential for causing outbreaks.

In May 2022, a tremor ran through the world’s public health sphere. Monkeypox, a virus endemic to Central and West Africa, began cropping up in unexpected places – Europe, North America, and across the globe. Initially dismissed as isolated cases, the outbreak soon revealed itself to be a full-blown pandemic, catching many by surprise. Unlike its infamous cousin, smallpox, eradicated decades ago, monkeypox had lurked in the shadows, a potential threat waiting to be unleashed. The reasons for this sudden emergence remain under investigation, with theories pointing to increased human encroachment on animal habitats, changes in agricultural practices, and the global interconnectedness facilitating rapid viral spread.

The early days of the outbreak were marked by fear and confusion. The lack of widespread immunity, coupled with misinformation swirling on social media, created a sense of panic. Images of the characteristic pox lesions fueled public anxieties, and healthcare systems, still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, found themselves stretched thin. A concerning trend emerged as the LGBTQ+ community, particularly men who have sex with men, bore the brunt of the initial cases. This fueled social stigma and discrimination, hindering access to healthcare and exacerbating the crisis.

Amidst the initial chaos, a spirit of global cooperation began to take root. Scientists, armed with the hard-won knowledge from the COVID-19 pandemic, launched a rapid response. Research efforts intensified, with scientists revisiting old research on smallpox and monkeypox, accelerating the development of vaccines and treatments. Collaboration transcended borders, with information and resources shared freely between nations. The WHO, criticized for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, took a more proactive role, issuing clear guidelines and coordinating global efforts.

As time progressed, the tide began to turn. The newly developed vaccines, rigorously tested and rolled out with impressive speed, proved highly effective. Public health measures, honed during the COVID-19 crisis, like isolation, contact tracing, and masking in high-risk settings, helped curb transmission. The initial panic subsided, replaced by a cautious optimism. However, the scars of the outbreak remain etched deep.

The impact of the monkeypox pandemic is multi-faceted and continues to unfold. The economic toll is significant, with disruptions to global travel, supply chains, and tourism. Healthcare systems, already burdened by the pandemic backlog, faced additional strain. The psychological impact is also profound, with lingering anxieties and a heightened awareness of our vulnerability to zoonotic diseases.

Perhaps the most significant long-term impact lies in the wake-up call the outbreak delivered. It exposed the fragility of global health security, highlighting the interconnectedness of human and animal health. The ease with which a virus endemic to a specific region could erupt into a global pandemic underscores the need for a more robust global disease surveillance system. Additionally, the disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ+ community highlights the persistent inequalities in healthcare access and the importance of tackling social stigma associated with infectious diseases.

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The monkeypox pandemic is a story of resilience in the face of adversity. It is a testament to the power of scientific collaboration, rapid innovation, and global cooperation. While the immediate crisis may be subsiding, the lessons learned must not be forgotten. As the world charts a course towards a more resilient future, strengthening global health infrastructure, promoting equitable access to healthcare, and fostering a One Health approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health will be paramount. Only then can we truly be prepared for the next emerging infectious disease threat.

Preventing mpox

Preventing mpox involves a combination of public health measures, vaccination, personal hygiene, and awareness. Here are the key strategies for preventing mpox:

1. Vaccination

  • Smallpox Vaccine: The smallpox vaccine, particularly the newer non-replicating vaccinia vaccine (JYNNEOS or Imvamune/Imvanex), has been shown to be effective against mpox.
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): Vaccination after exposure to mpox can help prevent the disease or reduce its severity if administered within a few days of exposure.
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): For people at higher risk (e.g., healthcare workers, laboratory personnel, and close contacts of infected individuals), vaccination can be considered as a preventive measure.

2. Personal Hygiene and Protective Measures

  • Hand Hygiene: Regular hand washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with potentially infected animals or humans.
  • Protective Clothing: Wearing protective clothing, including gloves and masks, when caring for infected individuals or handling animals that could carry the virus.
  • Avoiding Contact: Avoiding close contact with people who have symptoms of mpox, such as skin lesions and respiratory symptoms.

3. Isolation and Quarantine

  • Isolation of Infected Individuals: People with confirmed or suspected mpox should be isolated to prevent transmission to others.
  • Quarantine of Contacts: Close contacts of infected individuals should be monitored for symptoms and may need to be quarantined to prevent further spread.

4. Public Health Measures

  • Surveillance and Reporting: Prompt reporting of suspected cases to public health authorities to facilitate early detection and containment of outbreaks.
  • Education and Awareness: Public education campaigns to raise awareness about the symptoms, transmission, and prevention of mpox.
  • Animal Control: Control and surveillance of animal reservoirs, particularly in regions where mpox is endemic.

5. Safe Handling of Animals

  • Avoiding Wild Animals: Avoiding contact with wild animals, particularly rodents and primates, in areas where mpox is endemic.
  • Safe Handling of Pets: Ensuring pets that might have come into contact with wild animals or infected humans are properly handled and monitored for signs of illness.

6. Environmental Sanitation

  • Disinfection: Regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with the virus.
  • Safe Disposal of Waste: Proper disposal of medical waste and materials contaminated with body fluids of infected individuals.


Preventing mpox requires a multi-faceted approach that includes vaccination, personal protective measures, isolation and quarantine protocols, public health interventions, and safe handling of animals and waste. By combining these strategies, the spread of mpox can be effectively controlled and minimized.

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