Monkeypox Outbreak – Are Children and Pregnant Women at Risk?
After the COVID pandemic, monkeypox has come out as another unusual virus that is outbreaking and making the headlines worldwide. Over 80 confirmed cases have been reported from around 12 countries. These include several European countries, the US, Australia, and Canada. Various health experts and the WHO are expecting the cases to rise in non-endemic countries. India has not yet reported any case, but the authorities are keeping a strict watch over the situation.
As we all know, children and expecting mothers are highly sensitive to environmental factors; they must take proper precautions to stay away from possible infections. But are they susceptible to contracting monkeypox as well? To know more about this, we must understand what monkeypox is, how it spreads, and what are the treatment options.
“Pregnancy Is A Immunosuppressive State, But Proper Care and Hygiene Can Prevent Most Of The Infections”. – Dr. Sabiha Anjum
What Is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus. It is a highly contagious infection with symptoms similar to smallpox but clinically less severe. The hosts of this virus are primates and rodents, such as rats and squirrels, that transmit the virus to other animals and human beings. The virus typically occurs in the tropical regions of central and west Africa. Unlike smallpox, monkeypox is rare, less painful, and self-limiting.
History of Monkeypox
The first case of monkeypox was reported in 1958 with two outbreaks of pox-like diseases in monkeys. Hence, the name. However, the first human case was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the infestation drive of smallpox. Since then, this viral infection has been recorded in human beings in neighbourhood countries.
Symptoms of Monkeypox
The monkeypox symptoms are similar but milder than smallpox. The infection usually takes 6 to 13 days to develop symptoms, but the incubation period can range from 5 to 21 days.
The symptoms begin with:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
After 1-3 days of the appearance of fever, the individual begins to experience rashes and skin eruptions on the face, which then spread to other parts of the body. Apart from the face, the rashes can affect palms, feet soles, oral mucous membranes, cornea, and genitalia. It is a self-limiting infection with symptoms that can last from 2 to 4 weeks. The infection may cause severity in children because of an underlying immune deficiency.
Since this infection is rare, in severe cases, the fatality ratio of monkeypox is around 3-6%.
How Does It Transmit?
Monkeypox is highly contagious. There are several modes of transmission of this viral infection. An individual may contract the infection by coming in contact with an animal, person, or any object contaminated with the virus. The virus can enter the host through mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth), abrasions (broken skin), or the respiratory tract.
Animal-to-human transmission can happen through:
- A bite or scratch of the infected animal
- direct contact with body fluids or lesion material
- Contact with the contaminated bedding of the infected animal
It can spread between humans through:
- Sharing respiratory droplets of any individual infected with monkeypox, like while coughing and sneezing.
- Direct contact with the infected person’s body fluids, lesions, skin blisters, or scabs.
- Indirect contact by touching the infected person’s clothing or bedding.
According to the CDC, currently, there is no safe, proven treatment for monkeypox. However, antivirals and vaccines approved for smallpox can be used to treat the symptoms of monkeypox. As this infection can spread through touch, if you happen to contract monkeypox, isolation is necessary.
Since smallpox and monkeypox share similar symptoms, vaccination approved against smallpox, including Imvanex, has demonstrated to effectively provide protection against monkeypox as well.
As per the WHO, out of the new vaccines developed, one has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox. Another antiviral agent developed to treat smallpox is also licensed for treating monkeypox.
Should Pregnant Women and Parents Be Worried About Monkeypox?
Monkeypox can be deadly; however, most cases recover in two to four weeks without any serious consequences. According to the WHO, children, pregnant women, and individuals with immune suppression are at a high risk of contracting this infection. Monkeypox during pregnancy may cause complications, stillbirth, or congenital monkeypox.
Parents should be aware of any noticeable change in their children. If any of the aforementioned symptoms occur, they should contact the doctor without delay.
What Can You Do to Prevent It?
There are several measures that can be undertaken to prevent the contraction of this infection.
- Practise good hand and body hygiene regularly when coming from outside.
- Consume meat that is sourced with clean checks and thoroughly cooked.
- Wear masks when going outside as respiratory transmission of monkeypox is an option.
- Avoid direct contact with the animals that can easily harbour the virus in the areas where the infection is increasing.
- Avoid direct contact with sick animals and indirect contact with their beddings or other objects.
- Do not come in close contact with people who are sick and may have monkeypox symptoms. Also, don’t share their belongings.
- Avoid bushmeat (meat of wild animals).
Timely surveillance, precautionary measures and vaccine can help control the outbreak of monkeypox in masses. On an individual level, ensure proper hygiene and wear face masks to avoid any chance of contracting this viral infection.