Monkeypox outbreak: Some common myths and facts about the viral infection

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“Monkeypox virus (MPXV) has got its name from the monkey in which the infection was initially detected. Although no reservoir is determined, it is also found in rodents,” Dr Niranjan Patil

With monkeypox cases being recorded in over 20 countries across the globe, people are concerned about its spread and transmission as they continue to shield themselves against the ongoing Covid-19 scare. So far, the monkeypox infections have crossed the 200-case-mark worldwide, raising alarms.

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Monkeypox virus (MPXV) has got its name from the monkey in which the infection was initially detected. Although no reservoir is determined, MPXV is also found in rodents,” Dr Niranjan Patil (MD, Microbiology), Associate Vice President (AVP), Scientific Business head- Infectious Diseases, Microbiology and Molecular biology- Head and Biosafety officer, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, Mumbai said. Just like Covid-19, several myths about the infection are floating on social media, leading to panic and fear.As such, Dr Patil busted a few such myths about monkeypox and shared important facts about the viral infection.

Myth: Monkeypox is as contagious as COVID-19 or smallpox

Fact: Monkey box is far less contagious as compared to smallpox, measles, or COVID-19.

Myth: Monkeypox is a new virus.

Fact: No, the monkeypox virus is not a novel virus. It’s a known virus and is generally seen in central and western African countries as localised outbreaks.

Myth: There is no treatment available.

Fact: Monkeypox virus infection is a self-limited infection in most cases. Lesions heal on their own generally by 21 days. Treatment for monkeypox is mostly supportive and consists of fever and pain management by paracetamol or other NSAIDs, nutrition support, skincare, eye care and respiratory support. Specific antiviral such as Tecorivimat has been approved for the monkeypox virus in 2022. Tecorivimat has been previously used to treat smallpox cases. Other antivirals which may be considered are Cidofovir or Brincidofivir.

Myth: Smallpox vaccination or infection does not protect against the monkeypox virusFact: Past exposure to smallpox before the 1980s, either through infection or vaccination, is protective. The protection may vary from 80 to 85 per cent and is generally life-long.

Myth: Monkeypox virus infection will spread rapidly like COVID-19

Fact: No, it won’t spread rapidly as COVID19 as it is far less contagious, and knowledge about the virus already exists so there is no need to panic. Human to human transmission is much less compared to COVID-19 and requires close contact with the infected individual or their body fluids/their secretions. Vaccinia virus vaccine available for smallpox may be used to prevent MPXV infection, especially among high-risk contacts and health care workers on a case-to-case basis.

Can you be infected with monkey pox and Covid-19 at the same time?

Myth: Monkeypox virus infection cannot be distinguished from smallpox or chickenpox.

Fact: It can be easily distinguished from smallpox and chickenpox based on the clinical symptoms and laboratory tests. Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 whereas the characteristic rash of chickenpox is centripetal, meaning predominantly on the trunks and spares the palms and the soles. In the case of the monkeypox virus, it is predominantly on the head and face and involves the palms and soles. Real-time PCR and sequencing tests are used to diagnose MPXV from chickenpox and other poxviruses such as cowpox and smallpox.