Symptoms, transmission and vaccination – what we know

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to: Pamela Doerhofer


Worldwide, more and more people are now infected with monkeypox. The World Health Organization and the Robert Koch Institute have been warned.

LONDON – Many people have contracted monkeypox in the United Kingdom. The first case was found on May 7 in a traveler returning from Nigeria. However, six others appear to have been infected in the UK without known contact with anyone who had previously been in West or Central Africa (where the virus is more common).

According to the Epidemiological Bulletin of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), there are two cases in one family and four cases in men who had sex with other men (possible route of infection). As reported by RKI, it is assumed that these six people were infected in London, and investigations have begun. The first case is now also in Germany.

The World Health Organization has warned: Monkeypox is spreading

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), all infected people have contracted the West African type of monkeypox virus. There is also a variant prevalent in the Congo Basin. Even if there have only been a few cases so far, health authorities are at least vigilant, as this is the first known transmission of the pathogen without any connection to Africa.

Monkey pox under an electron microscope. (best possible image quality). A case of monkeypox virus was also discovered in Germany for the first time. © Essbauer / dpa

To date, all cases documented outside Africa have been traced back to travelers or contacts with infected imported animals. In 2003, for example, there was an outbreak in the United States caused by pet prairie dogs. It turned out that they were infected with rodents imported from Africa before being sold.

Don’t underestimate monkeypox virus: Experts warn of ‘potential global danger’

As the scientific journal writes, the number of infections and outbreaks is increasing dramatically “for reasons that are still unclear,” “that is why monkeypox is considered a potential global threat.” According to the RKI, an increasing number of cases have been reported from Nigeria in particular since 2017. The report on states that experts from Africa have warned that monkeypox could transform from a regionally prevalent contagious disease to a “relevant disease on the planet.” global level”.

Cases from Great Britain are taken as an indication that the virus is changing its behaviour. A research team from the American University of Nigeria reportedly suggested in a 2020 publication that monkeypox virus might occupy the “environmental and immune niche” that smallpox virus once occupied.

Rodents are the most important contributors to the spread of infection: infection by droplets

Rodents (and to a lesser extent monkeys) are suspected of being the main reservoirs of pathogens, particularly squirrels, rats and lilies. Like many other infectious diseases, monkeypox belongs to zoonoses. It was first found in humans in 1970 in a boy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire). Since then, most cases have been reported from tropical rainforest regions in 11 African countries. According to the World Health Organization, the actual number of infections is unknown.

You can become infected through contact with infected animals or by eating them, but it is also possible to pass the infection from one person to another: through blood and other body fluids, through droplet infection, through fluid from blisters and crusts or through contaminated materials Like used. towels; The incubation period ranges from 10 to 14 days on average.

Monkeypox viruses cause skin lesions and fever

Monkeypox is caused by viruses of the genus orthovirus, related to classic smallpox, which has been eradicated since 1980, but the disease is milder. The first symptoms include a sudden onset of fever of up to 40 degrees, severe headache, body aches, sore throat, cough, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes.

After about one to three days, the typical skin changes appear, which appear as spots, nodules, blisters, and pustules, which eventually peel and fall off. The face, palms and soles of the feet are particularly affected, and the genitals, conjunctiva and cornea are rarely affected. In severe cases there is a risk of blindness. The disease usually clears up within two to four weeks.

Sudden fever up to 40 degrees
Severe headache and body aches
Sore throat
swollen lymph nodes
The skin changes in the form of spots, nodules, blisters and blisters

There is no vaccine against smallpox in Germany

In addition to immunocompromised patients, young adults and children are especially at risk of acute courses. In pregnant women, the infection can lead to miscarriage. Even if the RKI rates the general prognosis as “favorable,” monkeypox can be fatal, and the rate is set between 2 to 10 percent, with the West African variant considered the least mild.

The fact that people under the age of 40 are often more dangerous than the elderly may be due to the fact that these groups no longer receive the smallpox vaccination. With the eradication of smallpox, the universal vaccination program was halted. The traditional live smallpox vaccine also provides some protection against monkeypox. There is currently no approved smallpox vaccine in Germany.

A smallpox vaccination scar appears on the upper arm.  Smallpox has always been one of the most dangerous diseases affecting humans.  Vaccines came to the rescue, and since 1980 the world has been considered smallpox-free.
A smallpox vaccination scar appears on the upper arm. Smallpox has always been one of the most dangerous diseases affecting humans. Vaccines came to the rescue, and since 1980 the world has been considered smallpox-free. © Bernd Weisbrod / dpa

Risk of population decline: possible symptoms can be treated

Treatment is usually aimed at relieving symptoms or preventing a secondary bacterial infection. Tecovirimat, a monkeypox drug developed in the United States, was also approved in the European Union in January 2022. However, it is not yet widely available.

The RKI warns that “in the event of a suspicious clinical picture”, monkeypox infection should at least be included in diagnostic considerations, especially for those returning from a trip from (West) Africa, but also for all other people with inconspicuous smallpox. Skin changes. However, the British Health Authority’s Health Security Agency assumes that the risks to the population have been low so far. (Pamela Doerhofer)

Arboviruses are also spreading and the World Health Organization is warning of another possible pandemic.

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