Doubtless, if recent history has taught us anything, it should be to expect the unexpected. 2020 will go down in the history books as a year of tragedy, heartbreak, and unpreparedness.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit harder and faster than anybody thought possible. What began as a “harmless flu” quickly enflamed the world and threw us all into the current age of the post-pandemic.
One fear remains on the tips of everybody’s tongues: Will there be another pandemic, and if so, when will it occur?
For this reason alone, when outbreaks like the very recent case of monkeypox in the US hit the headlines, everybody stands to attention.
This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about the current cases of monkeypox in the US.
What are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Bloodborne pathogens are diseases that present themselves in the blood caused by microorganisms. The transmission of these pathogens typically happens through blood and other bodily fluids.
The most infamous of such diseases is the HIV/AIDS virus recognized by the CDC in 1981 following a mass outbreak.
Two more common examples are malaria and syphilis. Malaria is one of the most prolific diseases in history, while syphilis is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
Many pathogens share similar symptoms, making individual cases hard to estimate. To make matters worse, such conditions can lie dormant for months, or even years. That’s why professional, medical guidance is vital.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with various bloodborne pathogens include:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Muscle ache
- Swollen lymph nodes
Understanding how to recognize the signs of such a disease is vital. You should never hesitate to seek professional medical consultation if you’re feeling uncertain, or feel the need to do so on behalf of a loved one.
What is Monkeypox?
The monkeypox virus is thankfully a rare disease. It is caused by a viral agent quite similar to smallpox and cowpox diseases and was first discovered in 1958 during an outbreak among laboratory monkeys.
Hence the moniker.
Since then, two genetic variants have been classified; the Central African and West African monkeypox variants. While both pose a danger to those who contract the disease, the Central strain is the more severe of the two.
Unfortunately, the source of the virus remains yet unknown given its relative obscurity. Even so, it is suspected to be closely linked to certain African rodent species.
The Symptoms of Monkeypox
Monkeypox shares many symptoms with other bloodborne pathogens like those listed above. The most common symptoms including a fever, muscle aches, fatigue or exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that spreads from the face to the palms and soles of the feet.
By far the most obvious and abundant symptom is the distinctive ‘pox’ marks that appear all over the body. They resemble those of smallpox or chickenpox in appearance. These marks appear as distinctive, swollen pustules.
You’ve probably even had them yourself as a child.
The symptoms typically last between two and four weeks before subsiding, except for in more serious cases.
How Dangerous is Monkeypox?
The danger posed by a given disease is an aggregate estimate dependent on a number of factors. Lethality, rate of infection, incubation, detection, and treatments are all factors to consider, as is the availability of a vaccine.
For instance, the smallpox virus, an ancient disease that had plagued humanity for centuries, was declared eradicated in 1979 by the World Health Organization (WHO). This was quite simply because of a global vaccine drive to eradicate the disease.
Ironically, this effort resulted in the first case of human monkeypox in Central Africa in the 1970s.
Compared with COVID-19, monkeypox is a far less dangerous disease to contend with. Its fatality rate ranges from 1-10%, depending on the treatment, and as a bloodborne pathogen, it is transmitted via the blood and other bodily fluids, while corona is airborne.
However, this doesn’t mean that airborne transmission is out of the question – only much less likely. There is no vaccine designed specifically to combat monkeypox. Yet, its genetic similarity to smallpox means the smallpox vaccine is effective in preventing it.
Overall, the virus is not particularly deadly, but, like COVID-19, it presents significant dangers in patients with weakened immune systems.
The infection rate for the strain concerned in the recent outbreak is around one in one hundred people – substantially less than for COVID-19.
On a broad scale, this transmission rate is considered to be low compared with other pathogens. However, it is possible for the disease to spread through respiratory droplets, meaning it is not entirely without risk.
There is no current cure for monkeypox other than to treat its symptoms and wait for the body’s own immune system to handle the rest.
The symptoms can be treated with antivirals, but the best protection is always in prevention. Although no current vaccine for monkeypox exists, the smallpox vaccine has proven effective to a relatively larger degree in preventing the virus in humans.
The Monkeypox Outbreak in Texas
The current outbreak hitting the headlines concerns an individual who contracted the disease in Nigeria before returning via an airline to the US.
After developing symptoms, the patient was diagnosed at a hospital in Dallas, Texas.
The risk of airborne transmission is low. Even so, the closed confines and recycled air of a flight means that the disease passing to others isn’t out of the question. This has become all too apparent in the ongoing pandemic climate.
Given that risk, the CDC is monitoring those in close contact with patient zero; around 200 at-risk people, including fellow passengers, flight staff, and others who might have come into contact with the pathogen.
At present, nobody else seems to have contracted the pathogen. But this isn’t yet cause for celebration. Like COVID-19, the incubation period for monkeypox can take up to three weeks, meaning we’re not out of the woods yet.
The virus remains rare, particularly in humans. Even so, there have been outbreaks in the past – Nigeria has seen increases in the number of cases over recent years.
No doubt, with governments and the CDC on high alert, the slightest sign of an outbreak will sound an alarm.
Will Monkeypox Cause an Epidemic?
Nobody wants to see another epidemic.
But there is good news.
Owing to low transmission rates between host animals and humans, and an equally low prevalence of human-to-human transmission, the monkeypox pathogen is highly unlikely to cause an epidemic across the US or elsewhere.
This is doubly true given the current state of affairs, and vigilance of the CDC and other governing bodies.
And yet, you might be left thinking that nobody predicted the COVID-19 pandemic, either.
You’d certainly be right.
For that reason alone, it’s vital to remain observant and report any suspected cases of the disease to medical professionals. Erring on the side of caution will always pay off.
Only time will tell if the monkeypox virus spreads more drastically than predicted. It would not be the first case of an outbreak of the disease, including inside the US.
In a global first, 2003 saw a monkeypox outbreak outside Africa. With a total of 47 cases across six states inside the US, the outbreak traced back to rodents shipped from Ghana, West Africa, to the United States.
These rodents then came into contact with prairie dogs, which in turn became infected. Purchased as pets, the source of human transmission was attributed to sheddings from the dogs and close contact with the animals.
More recently, there have been multiple outbreaks of the pathogen across West Africa. This highlights an upward trend, which has resulted in exported cases detected in the UK, Israel, Singapore, and the United States.
The case reported in the UK included transmission to an unprotected healthcare worker. This proves that, while rare, the virus is nonetheless a risk where precautions are not in place. Thankfully, there were no deaths.
How to Protect Yourself Against Bloodborne Pathogens
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee immunity from bloodborne pathogens, including monkeypox. They’re simply too numerous and complex to account for. New strains are emerging constantly.
The best protection is prevention – avoidance of contracting a pathogen entirely
Getting vaccinated against existing pathogens is a surefire way to protect yourself. Becoming well-read on the dangers posed by such diseases is paramount in the prevention of the spread.
Nobody knows when or where the next pandemic will hit, and it’s vital to stay ahead of the game and on top of trends.