Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Sha'ban 28, 1444 H
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We have all been closely following the outbreak of monkeypox in Europe – a rare but potentially severe viral disease with dozens of confirmed or suspected cases in the UK, Spain and Portugal.

In a way, the virus behind monkeypox is very close to the virus that caused smallpox. But it is less deadly and less transmissible and may cause symptoms including fever and rash. In fact, it is endemic to West and Central Africa, where it was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958, hence the name! But the wild animals that harbor the virus may also be rodents.

On the other hand, these monkeypox outbreaks are also unique because they occur in the third year of the Coronavirus pandemic, wherein people and societies are prepared to be more aware of the outbreak of the disease.

Monkeypox is a test of the lessons the world has learned (or not learned!) from the COVID-19 pandemic. To be clear, monkeypox is not like the Covid19 pandemic, but rather it is a different disease caused by different viruses with different characteristics.

Therefore, according to previous studies, it does not spread easily and does not spread through the air over long distances. Instead it is transmitted through contaminated surfaces or long proximity to other people, which is why most outbreaks of the disease have been small.

Of course, one vaccine against smallpox may also be effective in preventing monkeypox at a high rate.

In spite of this, monkeypox patients usually receive only supportive care, but there is a potential treatment that exists and has been developed(Tecovirimat) To treat smallpox for example, it would probably work for monkeypox too!

Here, I must stress that monkeypox may not spread the way the coronavirus did, but for those who catch it, it remains a severe disease. If someone gets sick, they often get sick for two to four weeks.

It is therefore essential to identify people early, get treatment and identify contacts, especially since the common symptoms are: a rash that looks like an extreme version of smallpox. But unlike smallpox , a monkeypox rash is usually preceded by a fever.

On the other hand, what is curious here for me is that the incubation period between infection and symptoms is long – for monkeypox – ranging from five to 21 days and it is not uncommon to see this number of cases in more than three countries at the same time?!

It is true that many of the current cases of monkeypox have appeared in men who are considered gay, or men who have sex with men, which is indeed an unusual pattern not encountered in previous studies or heard of in previous monkeypox outbreaks. Does this raise questions about a new method of transmission, especially since sex here involves close and prolonged contact?!

In the end, more cases may continue to be revealed during the coming period, especially since the current infections may have been the result of those large groups of people gathering recently in a major event such as the one we heard about and their transmission of the virus to their countries or that it was previously spread without anyone realizing it and then during that gathering or party has become contagious. The most important thing is that it will not be similar to the situation we lived through with the Coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps the best thing to do now is to make sure that society is aware of what monkeypox looks like.

Dr Yousuf Ali al Mulla is a physician, medical innovator and a writer.

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