A recent outbreak of a rare disease in the United States and Europe has left health officials bewildered. NPR reports that nearly 70 cases of monkeypox have been recorded in the United States and Europe, but it is unclear how the virus has spread. As a result, health officials have begun investigating new ways in which the virus may be transmitting from one area to the next.
“This [outbreak] is rare and unusual,” U.K. Health Security Agency Chief Medical Adviser Susan Hopkins said in a recent statement.
“These latest cases, together with reports of cases in countries across Europe, confirms our initial concerns that there could be spread of monkeypox within our communities. UKHSA has quickly identified cases so far and we continue to rapidly investigate the source of these infections and raise awareness among healthcare professionals.”
Monkeypox is a vicious virus that can cause fevers, headaches, muscle aches, backaches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. As the virus develops, rashes may develop and spread to other parts the body. Ultimately, these rashes transform into scabs before falling off.
Typically, monkeypox is spread from certain animals to individuals. Person-to-person transmission isn’t all that common unless bodily fluids are spread from one individual to another. With that said, doctors appear to have found a new method of transmission — sexual contact.
“What is even more bizarre is finding cases that appear to have acquired the infection via sexual contact – this is a novel route of transmission that will have implications for outbreak response and control,” Mateo Prochazka of the U.K. Health Security Agency tweeted.
While there is reason to be concerned, health officials remain confident that the risk of infection for the general public is low.
“More to come and lots of work going on, especially focused on rapidly protecting the health of people + health care workers, implementing a response working closely with sexual health services, as well as tackling discourses that reinforce inequalities and stigma,” Prochazka added.
“Monkeypox infection is usually a self-limiting illness and most people recover within several weeks.”