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World on Alert as Monkeypox Cases Begin to Spread

Monkeypox has spread across multiple continents since first appearing in the UK in May. Credit: Press Office of the Greek Prime Minister

Cases of monkeypox, a rare and often mild infection, have spread across to multiple continents after first being reported in the UK in early May.

As of Friday, there have been cases reported in the US, Canada, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal. No cases have been reported in Greece as of yet.

The infection is most commonly found in quite remote areas of Central and West Africa, and there are two different strains of the virus from the two regions.

The West African strain tends to be milder than the Central African one, but neither are generally life threatening and usually result in manageable symptoms. Most people who are infected with monkeypox recover within a few weeks.

Although the infection has spread to a variety of countries recently, it is not very infectious, and there is very little risk of widespread infection.

The first case of the recent bout of monkeypox was identified in the UK on May 7th in a patient who had recently traveled to Nigeria. It is highly likely that they contracted monkeypox there before bringing it to the UK, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

Cases of monkeypox usually not severe

Others who have since been infected with the virus have not traveled to Africa and have no connections to each other, which indicates that the infection has spread throughout certain communities.

The virus is typically transmitted through close contact with an infected person, including through sexual contact, and it can enter the body through the eyes, mouth, and any open wounds.

Additionally, contact with infected animals can lead to the spread of the disease.

As of Friday, there are twenty reported cases of monkeypox in the UK, where the smallpox vaccine is being administered to those at risk of becoming infected with the virus.

Although they are not the same infection, smallpox and monkeypox are similar enough that the smallpox vaccine is 85 percent effective in preventing against infection of the virus.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, aches, pain, fatigue, headache in the early stages, and then a rash, much like small pox, that commonly appears on the hands and feet.

This rash is often itchy and uncomfortable, and scratching the bumps can cause scarring.

Monkeypox was first discovered in the mid-twentieth century amongst captive monkeys being used for research in laboratories. It has since spread across Africa and was only first officially recorded outside of Africa in 2003 in the US.

The bout of cases recorded in 2003 numbered 81, and no one infected with the virus passed away. Experts believe the spread of the infection can be linked to infected prairie dogs that were brought into the US.

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