The lesions and blisters caused by monkeypox virus are, although, very painful, and lead to hospitalisation, the diseases may not be as deadly as Covid-19 for the general public, health experts contended on Wednesday. The monkeypox virus has, so far, infected over 16,000 people across 75 countries and caused five deaths in Africa.
The disease is not sexually transmitted, but the latest outbreak has been reported among men who have sex with men. However, it can spread among the general population through direct contact with infectious skin or lesions, including face-to-face, skin-to-skin, and respiratory droplets.
Although the disease may typically start with just fever and skin lesions, if left untreated, it can get complicated "by affecting the lungs", Dr. Laxman Jessani, Consultant and Infectious Disease Specialist at Apollo Hospital in Navi Mumbai told IANS.
"If the disease is not controlled, then the disease can go on to infect the lungs, and there can be pneumonia and with pneumonia, there can be increased mortality as well," Jessani said.
"I will not say that all cases turn out to be complicated, but there are a few cases of monkeypox if left untreated, they can have complications like pneumonia," he added.
A 2010 study by the US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also claims that the monkeypox virus might damage lungs during infection. Not only does the infection from monkeypox virus increase production of proteins involved in inflammation, but it decreases production of proteins that keep lung tissue intact and lubricated, revealed the study published in the journal 'Molecular and Cellular Proteomics'.
However, the co-chairman of IMA national task force on Covid, Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, disagreed saying that monkeypox may not be dangerous to the people living in good health.
"The person who's in good health, if gets monkeypox is at no greater risk as far as the evidence we have from developed Western nations.
"But extremely rare complications are possible, although such incidents have not been reported, so far," he said.
Monkeypox is a rare viral disease, related to smallpox and cowpox. The virus generally causes pimples or blister-like lesions and flu-like symptoms such as fever. The lesions typically concentrate on the arms and legs, but in the latest outbreak, they're showing up more frequently on the genital and perianal area.
Transmission can also occur from contaminated materials such as linens, bedding, electronics, clothing, that have infectious skin particles. Touching objects that have been contaminated by monkeypox lesions or fluids may also risk the spread.
Jessani said the risk of transmission is only "if one is coming in close contact with infected patients or animals".
"Otherwise the risk is not so much. If you use basic infection control measures like hand hygiene, maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, then the infections cannot transmit that easily," he said.
The experts noted there is "no need to panic" but "to remain vigilant".
According to Jessani, if you notice any symptom like fever or skin lesions, "make sure to report it to the concerned authorities" and get proper treatment.