Infectious Disease

CDC Disease Detective Answers Questions About Monkey Smallpox

December 11, 2021

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Minhaj does not report any relevant financial information.

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After 40 years with no reported case, monkeypox reappeared in Nigeria in 2017. Since then, 218 cases have been confirmed in Nigeria and eight cases have been reported in travelers leaving the country.

Of these eight cases, two occurred this year among travelers in the United States to track down air passengers and anyone else who might have come into contact with the patients. The second case was confirmed on November 16 in a patient isolated in Maryland.

Source: CDC.gov.

In the United States, two cases of monkey pox were found in travelers from Nigeria earlier this year. Source: CDC / Cynthia S. Goldsmith.

It can take up to 21 days after infection for symptoms of monkey pox to develop, according to the CDC. The first US case that year was reported in Texas in July. The CDC said no other cases were identified in the more than 200 people who had possible contact with this patient.

We spoke to Faisal Minhaj, PharmD, a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Officer at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, to answer some outstanding questions about monkey pox.

Healio: What is monkey pox?

Faisal Minhaj

Minhaj: Monkeypox virus is a member of the same genus as variola virus – which caused smallpox – but causes a milder infection. Most infections last 2 to 4 weeks. The death rate can be as high as 11% in people without prior smallpox vaccination.

There are two main tribes – West Africa and the Congo Basin. The West African tribe linked to the Nigerian outbreak are causing fewer deaths, and most deaths have occurred in people with underlying health conditions.

Healio: where does monkey pox come from?

Minhaj: The virus occurs in West and Central Africa. Small mammals, including rodents, are thought to play a role in spreading the virus to humans and other forest animals such as monkeys.

Interestingly, the name Monkeypox is a bit wrong as monkeys are usually not where the virus is found. However, the first identified case of monkey pox was in a monkey. Since then the disease has been called monkey pox.

Healio: Are there any concerns about its proliferation in the US?

Minhaj: Monkeypox has been reported in nine countries in West and Central Africa since 1970. Monkeypox also caused a major outbreak in the United States in 2003 after the virus spread from imported wild African mammals kept with prairie dogs. The prairie dogs became infected and were then adopted as pets in several states.

As of 2017, there have been eight cases of travel-related infections among travelers from Nigeria to four non-African countries, including the two cases this year to the United States.

The CDC has worked with our health partners in the United States and Nigeria to prevent monkey pox by working with Nigerian partners to find out which wildlife carries the virus, to improve the identification of infections in humans, and to help community members understand their interactions Interviewing wildlife – including animal products – with locals to understand potential exposures to the virus. These measures help contain diseases where they are endemic to reduce the likelihood of spreading to other countries.

Healio: How contagious is monkey pox?

Minhaj: People can get monkey pox if they are bitten or scratched by an animal, cook game while cooking, come into contact with body fluids or wounds of an infected animal, or from contaminated household surfaces or animal litter. Monkey pox virus can also spread between people through droplet infection or through contact with body fluids, monkey pox wounds, or objects – such as clothing and bedding – that have been contaminated with fluids or wounds from an infected person. The West African tribe is less communicable than the tribe in Central Africa.

Healio: Are there any monkeypox vaccines or are under development?

Minhaj: Getting a smallpox vaccination earlier can protect against monkey pox. The CDC is coordinating clinical trials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to assess whether the Jynneos smallpox vaccine can help protect health care workers from contracting monkey pox infection from their patients.

References:

CDC. Monkey pox in the United States. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/outbreak/us-outbreaks.html. Accessed December 8, 2021.

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