On November 17th, 2019, in the Hubli province of China, the news of the first person was infected with COVID 19, a pandemic that brought the world to a standstill. Since then, the fear of a virus has been instilled in the world’s population. Therefore, it is no surprise that on May 18th, 2022, when Monkey Pox was detected again, a slight panic alarm went off in everyone’s head.
The first thing you should ideally know about Monkeypox is that it isn’t a new disease. The first confirmed human case was in 1970 when the virus was isolated from a child suspected of having smallpox in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). So unlike COVID 19, it isn’t novel and there are prerecorded data available on how to treat them.
- What is Monkeypox? Epidemiology!
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although clinically less severe. It is caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the orthopoxviral genus of the Poxviridae family. The name monkeypox originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958.
It is characterized mainly by fever and rash and its range of illnesses can be from asymptomatic to death. There are two clades of monkeypox virus: the West African clade and the Congo Basin (Central African) clade.
The Congo Basin is the more infectious version causing up to 7 chains of human-to-human transmission with an 11% death rate. In contrast, the West African Clade has limited human transmission and a lower fatality rate of 6%.
- How does it spread?
As they have prolonged exposure to those infected, the transmission of Monkey Pox can primarily be in two ways:
Primary Infection, i.e., transmission through infected animals through prolonged contact with animals or through contact with a contaminated animal by products. This is also why it is also a zoonotic virus. Therefore, it’s imperative to thoroughly cook all foods containing animal meat or parts before eating and avoid contact with wild animals, especially those found dead or sick.
Secondary infection, i.e., transmission from human to human – usually happens when caring for a sick person. This means most at risk of exposure are the family members of the infected person and the healthcare professionals as they have prolonged exposure to those infected. Pregnant women can also transfer the infection to the fetus. Preventive actions like washing hands frequently and using PPE while caring for sick people, along with proper isolation, can help contain the spread to a great extent.
The various modes of transmission are – unprotected contact with respiratory droplets, lesion material and body fluids from both humans and animals. It can also be transmitted from materials that have been in contact with the infected individuals, like bedding, clothing, or medical equipment.
A primary means would be through the nose and mouth into the respiratory tract others include contact with mucus membrane (eyes and mouth) along with broken skin.
- How do you know you have contracted the virus?
The infection incubation begins with an incubation period of 5-21 days where no visible signs of the infection would be shown. During the Febrile stage, one begins to show symptoms such as fever, headache, chill, sore throat, malaise, and fatigue, along with sometimes small lesions in the mouth. This is followed by the Rash stage, which starts as lesions with a flat base to raised puss-filled lesions with redness surrounding them. The rash may be painful or itchy and can be present inside your mouth, cornea, or genitals. It can take 2 to 4 weeks for the lesions to turn into a crust phase that falls off to show the healed skin. As the rash evolves, the body starts producing detectable antibodies which can be present for many years.
- What’s the difference between Monkeypox, Chickenpox and Measles?
Due to the similar visible symptoms, Monkeypox can be easily confused with other diseases like Chickenpox and Measles. However, even with these similarities, it is surprising to learn that these diseases are not caused by the same family of viruses – other pox.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, whereas a type of paramyxovirus causes measles.
The distinguishing factors between the three lies in the rash stage of their infection. While chickenpox lesions are more concentrated on the trunks, the monkeypox lesions are denser on the face, palms, and legs. Measles, however, has a gradual spread of rashes starting from face to hands and feet. Another stand-out feature is that 70% of monkeypox patients develop swollen lymph nodes.
- Laboratory Investigation
Monkeypox virus is 250 nm in length, has an outer lipoprotein envelope with antigens, and contains a linear molecule of double-stranded DNA. In various stages of the infection, the virus will be present in different tissues, including skin and other lesions.
Various tests can be done to detect the virus at the different stages of the infection. During the incubation stage, where there are no symptoms, no tests are required.
While in the Febrile stage, the test that can be done is PCR through throat and nose swabs.
During the recovery phase – there is antigen testing that can be done to detect the presence of antibodies. With high-quality detection chemistries and IHC strainers, these tests can be done most effectively and accurately. Our industry-leading partners like Diagnostic Biosystems provide these solutions that have become an integral part of the diagnostic process of infection.
However, they are not specific to determine if the infection was caused by monkeypox or other pox viruses in the past. This is where genome sequencing comes into the picture. This technique can help track the origin and spread of the virus and discover the spillover events and modes of transmission.
Smallpox vaccination has been proved effective in preventing the infection of Monkey Pox. Even though post the eradication of smallpox in 1980, the vaccination program stopped, the researchers continued to develop newer and stronger vaccines against smallpox. WHO has recommended these vaccines be used for at-risk individuals, like healthcare providers and lab professionals.
The threat of a new virus in a post-pandemic era can be quite stressful for the public and healthcare authorities. However, arming yourself with information helps you be prepared for the situation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the technologies that Leader Life Sciences offers to prepare your laboratory.