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18 Interesting Facts about Monkeypox You Might Not Know

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Monkeypox is a rare disease that has been around for over 60 years. However, it remains a mystery to many people, with the most interesting facts about monkeypox rarely known.

Despite its rarity, it has caused concern recently as news outlets have reported disease outbreaks outside of Africa in mid- to late-2022. This concern has been exacerbated as there were monkeypox outbreaks in various parts of the world while we battled the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2022.

And while researchers discovered it decades ago, as diseases like monkeypox affect humans, it’s worth investigating more interesting facts about animals and how they can affect us. You’ll uncover much about this painful (and itchy) topic, from its transmission methods to its symptoms and treatments.

You’ll also learn a bit about how it’s similar to (and different from) smallpox and what can be done to prevent it from spreading further.

So, let’s get going. It’s time to learn some interesting monkeypox facts and get this monkey off your back.

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18 Interesting Facts About Monkeypox

Without further ado, here are 18 monkeypox facts you might not know.

1. Monkeypox is a Rare Disease That Affects Both Humans and Animals

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Monkeypox, known scientifically as the Mpox virus, affects other animals besides monkeys. The disease can infect different types of mammals (i.e., warm-blooded, vertebrate creatures), such as prairie dogs, shrews, monkeys, and hedgehogs. And humans, too.

Mpox can not only infect humans or animals but it can be transmitted between both species via direct contact with bodily fluids (we’ll delve more into bodily fluids later on).

You may wonder if other types of animals can get monkeypox. Well, it’s unclear at this stage. Scientists do not know whether non-mammals like amphibians, birds, or reptiles can get the virus.

That said, you needn’t worry too much about the disease; odds are, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning or win the lottery (yes, the lottery) than contract the virus.

Read more: Uncover interesting facts about cats here.

2. The Disease Was First Identified in Monkeys in 1958, Hence the Name Monkeypox

True to its name, monkeypox is called just that precisely because it was first discovered in monkeys in Denmark in 1958.

Researchers were studying a group of monkeys in the Scandinavian country when they noticed two outbreaks of a pox-related disease within the colonies of monkeys they had kept for research. Upon further examination, it was discovered that the monkeys were infected with a new virus, which was later named monkeypox.

Although it was first discovered in monkeys, how or from where they contracted the disease is unknown.

3. Monkeypox is Caused by a Virus Belonging to the Same Family as Smallpox, But Not Chickenpox

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While all three have “pox” at the end of their names, it doesn’t mean they are related or originate from the same virus. But you wouldn’t be faulted for believing so. 

A type of herpes virus, the varicella-zoster virus, causes chickenpox, whereas monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus. An orthopoxvirus is a type of virus that belongs to the Poxviridae family. The Poxviridae family are giant, complex viruses with a double-stranded DNA genome and a complex protein coat.

This family of viruses includes several species that can infect animals and humans, including smallpox and vaccinia.

4. The Virus is Primarily Found in Central and West Africa, Where it is Endemic in Certain Regions

If you’re planning a trip to the tropical climates of Central or West Africa anytime soon, you might want to know that monkeypox is typically found in these parts of Africa. Most cases of monkeypox reported in people have been here.

African countries most affected by the virus include Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, the Central African Republic, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo and DRC are different states), and Côte d’Ivoire, to name a few.

While monkeypox is endemic in these areas, it’s essential to remember that your risk of contracting the virus is still relatively low. This is especially if you’re a traveler who takes appropriate precautions, such as regularly washing your hands with soap and water.

Tip: If you’re planning to travel to these regions, it’s always a good idea to keep abreast of the latest health advisories and protect yourself from disease.

5. The Disease Can be Transmitted to Humans Through Contact with Infected Animals or their Bodily Fluids

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Being a zoonotic disease, monkeypox can be transmitted from animals to humans. The condition can also be transmitted through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces, such as bedding or clothing.

One of the most common ways a person can get monkeypox is through direct contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids, such as blood, urine, or saliva. This can occur through handling or consuming infected animals or touching their excrement.

However, one must keep in mind that while monkeypox can be transmitted from animals to humans, it is not a highly contagious disease. And people don’t quickly spread it between one another.

6. The Most Common Animal Reservoirs for the Virus are Squirrels, Rodents, and Primates

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While various wild animals can carry monkeypox, certain species are known to be the most common reservoirs for the virus. Among these, squirrels, rodents, and primates are believed to be the primary carriers of the disease.

In Western and Central African regions, certain types of rodents, such as rope squirrels and tree squirrels, have been associated with monkeypox outbreaks in humans. In other areas, primates such as monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas have been found to carry the itchy virus.

7. Human-to-Human Transmission Can Also Occur Through Contact with Infected Bodily Fluids or Contaminated Objects

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It’s worth noting that human-to-human transmission can also occur in some instances. This is typically only seen when there is close contact with an infected individual or their bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva, or pus.

It’s also important to remember that human-to-human transmission of monkeypox is relatively rare compared to other infectious diseases, such as the common cold or measles. 

Either way, it’s wise to protect yourself and others when dealing with potential cases of monkeypox, particularly in healthcare settings.

8. The Symptoms of Monkeypox are Similar to those of Smallpox

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Both diseases have similar symptoms, which is understandable as an orthopoxvirus causes both illnesses.

Someone who’s been infected typically develops symptoms within five to 14 days. These include a fever, headache, muscle aches all over your body, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and the famous rash.

9. The Rash Usually Begins on the Face and then Spreads to Other Parts of the Body

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This is not a pretty picture, but the infected person typically develops a rash as the disease progresses. It usually starts on the face and then spreads to other body parts. 

The rash progresses through different stages, from raised bumps to fluid-filled blisters, which eventually crust over and fall off. In severe cases, the rash can cover the entire body and even cause scarring.

10. Monkeypox is Generally a Self-Limiting Disease

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Fortunately, monkeypox is generally a self-limiting disease, which means that it usually resolves itself without the need for specific treatment. In many cases, the symptoms of monkeypox will go away within a few weeks (typically two – four weeks), and the infected person will fully recover.

11. However, in Rare Cases, Monkeypox Can Cause Severe Illness and Even Death

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However, in some cases, the disease causes more severe illness, especially in those with weakened immune systems. They may require antiviral medications to help manage their symptoms and prevent complications.

As mentioned earlier, people with weaker immune symptoms may require additional treatment. If not, they may face death. Those with underlying conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, may be more susceptible to complications from monkeypox.

12. There is No Specific Treatment for Monkeypox

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Getting supportive care can help a person manage symptoms. This typically involves medications to reduce fever and pain and measures to prevent dehydration, such as intravenous fluids to give patients much-needed electrolytes.

13. The Smallpox Vaccine is Effective in Preventing Monkeypox

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That said, it is not routinely used to prevent monkeypox. Thankfully, the smallpox vaccine is said to be close to 85% effective as a preventative measure for monkeypox. This is because the makeup of both diseases (i.e., smallpox’s variola virus and monkeypox’s vaccinia virus) is similar.

14. The Disease was First Reported in Humans in 1970 in a 9-Month Old Child in the DRC

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Monkeypox was first reported in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo when an outbreak occurred in a remote village near the Congo River.

Several cases of a mysterious illness were reported, and the child who first caught it was thought to have been infected with smallpox. However, further investigation revealed that it was not the case and that it was a new virus — monkeypox.

15. Several Outbreaks of Monkeypox Have Occurred in Central and West Africa, Including Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic

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Since its discovery in humans was first sighted in DRC in 1970, there have been outbreaks in these African regions. Take 2017, for instance. 

That year, Nigeria experienced its most extensive outbreak on record, with over 200 confirmed cases and several deaths. A year later, in 2018, it was Cameroon that had an outbreak that was linked to the consumption of monkey meat.

16. In 2003, the First Cases of Monkeypox Were Reported Outside of Africa, in the United States and the United Kingdom

These cases were associated with pet prairie dogs infected with the virus. It’s been reported that these prairie dogs were housed with pouched rats and dormice from The Gambia, a West African nation. They and the Gambian rodents were imported into the USA from Ghana. The result? An outbreak of over 70 cases related to monkeypox.

17. The Most Recent Monkeypox Outbreak Was in the UK in May 2022 and the USA in August 2022

The first recent case of Monkeypox in the UK was reported in London on 6 May 2022. It has been reported that a British national traveled to Nigeria and brought it back with them. This resulted in over 2,500 monkeypox cases in the UK.

Across the pond in the USA, over 6,600 cases of monkeypox were reported, and the government declared the virus a public health emergency.

18. There are Other Preventive Measures One Can Take to Avoid Contracting Monkeypox

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Apart from the smallpox vaccine and the most recent two-dose JYNNEOS vaccine approved by the FDA in 2019 to help prevent contracting monkeypox. People can take several other approaches to protect themselves. 

These prevention measures include avoiding contact with sick animals or their bodily fluids, practicing good hygiene, and using protective clothing and gloves when handling potentially infected animals or materials.

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