The monkeypox outbreak has already hit several countries while people in other nations like Pakistan where no case has been reported so far feel alarmed over the prospect of the disease crossing the international borders.
The fears — coming in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — are real, especially in absence of scarcity of publically available information about the virus.
Originating from Africa, the contagious disease has been recently detected in people who have never traveled to the continent.
Reading or listening about the rare viral disease, the people fear that it could force another pandemic like Covid-19.
To answer these queries, SAMAA Digital spoke to infectious disease experts.
Most experts believe that the monkeypox virus has been transmitted from animals and a person could contract it only after coming into close contact with an infected person.
Declaring monkeypox similar to smallpox, the experts advised people to wash their hands frequently as a precautionary measure.
Dr Faisal Mahmood
Dr Faisal Mahmood, an infectiologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), told SAMAA Digital that it is an old virus usually transmitted from animals to humans, adding that it does not make a person seriously ill but has the potential to do.
Dr Mahmood said they haven’t detected any case of monkeypox in Pakistan yet.
He said the virus is similar to smallpox and causes a rash with a bump on the skin. Close contact is the only source of transmission of a virus as it cannot sustain in the air, he said
However, Dr Mahmood says a cause of concern for him was the fact that the people who have been recently infected with monkeypox neither came in contact with the animals nor have a travel history to an area where it was present.
It is too early to say how the contagion infected the people and why it is spreading.
The infectiologist said that there could be two or three reasons for its spread. More cases are likely to surface now as it has drawn everyone’s attention unlike in the past when people didn’t have knowledge about it, he said.
Dermatologists should investigate the source of a skin problem if they see a patient with such symptoms, advises the doctor.
For the people, his advice is to wash hands with soap and immediately see a doctor if they doubt or develop symptoms.
He also suggested that doctors, while examining the patients, should also keep in view that they could be infected with the virus.
Dr Rana Jawad Asghar
Another infectious disease expert, Dr Rana Jawad Asghar, explained that monkeypox was first diagnosed in the 1950s in monkeys.
Dr Asghar said the zoonotic disease was first found in a monkey and a specie similar to a squirrel found in Africa.
Any disease transmitted from animals to humans is called zoonotic disease.
He said the monkeypox cases have surfaced in African countries since the 1960s, but the host of the disease has not been traced yet.
He added that human-to-human transmission of this virus is quite low. However, it requires research and examination to determine how easily it could transmit from human to human, said Dr Asghar.
The virus belongs to the smallpox family but the vaccination of smallpox has been stopped since 1980s having remained mandatory for decades.
Dr Asghar said that there is a whole generation that was not immunized against smallpox, and, hence, it is not immune against monekypox.
He said the disease is transmitted through physical and intimate contact.
He added that this virus existed in Africa for 40 years and for many years the people who contracted it in Europe had a travel history. However, the recent cases reported in the US and Europe have no travel history to Africa which indicates local transmission.
To a question, Dr Asghar said no country in the world is safe from a contagious disease and it is the first time the cases of monkeypox are surfacing outside Africa.
He also advised the people to wash their hands frequently with soap and avoid touching things used by the infected patients until sanitized.
He confirmed that no case of monkeypox has so far surfaced in Karachi.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) says thousands of monkeypox cases are reported in more than a dozen African countries every year. The highest cases, around 6,000, are reported from Congo while around 3,000 are reported from Nigeria.
However, the virus has recently shown its presence in different western countries including France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia.