Report on monkeypox says disease causes blindness

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A new report has revealed that the monkeypox viral infection can be severe in some individuals, “death is a possibility, as is blindness”.

The report titled ‘Investigating monkeypox’ was published by The Lancet medical journal. The scientists also raised concerns over the sudden outbreak of monkeypox and its continued spread, particularly in non-endemic countries.

Ali Zumla, professor of infectious diseases and international health at University College, London,  “Monkeypox cases have emerged sporadically in non-monkeypox endemic countries before, but never on this scale, across continents, and with ongoing human-to-human local transmission.

“For decades, scientists in Africa have witnessed a gradual rise in monkeypox cases. As humans continued to move into animal habitats and cross-protection offered from smallpox immunisation campaigns began to wane, the optimal conditions for an outbreak were in place”.

The latest monkeypox update by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that from January to June 15, 2022, 42 countries across five regions have reported a cumulative total of 2,103 confirmed cases with over 80 per cent recorded in non-endemic countries.

According to the data, the WHO European Region topped the infection with 1773 cases reported from 26 states, followed by the Region of the Americas with 245 from six states.

The African Region came third on the log with 64 cases from six countries, of which Nigeria topped the list with 36 cases, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic with 10 and eight cases respectively, while the three other countries are Ghana, Cameroon, and Congo.

Monkeypox common in rodents

Despite its first discovery in a laboratory monkey in Denmark in 1958, the report established that the virus is more common in rodents than in monkeys, adding that the natural source of the virus and the range of animals that it can infect is unknown.

David Evans, a virologist in the department of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta, Canada, said the determinant of whether an animal can host the monkeypox virus is its ability to block the infection, not whether the virus can enter the first place.

“It is not immediately obvious which European species could host monkeypox, but it would probably be some kind of shrew or vole”, said Mr Evans. “Certainly, in Africa, the virus is found in a variety of rodents.”

According to the Lancet, the earliest documented human case of monkeypox was in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first identified occasion on which the disease broke out in Africa occurred in 2003 after a shipment of monkeypox-infected rodents from Ghana arrived in Texas, USA, where they were kept in close proximity to prairie dogs, which in turn contracted the virus.

It added that several dozen Americans were subsequently diagnosed with monkeypox, starting with a 3-year-old girl who was bitten by her pet prairie dog.

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