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Monkeypox declared a pandemic by WHN: Ways to prevent yourself from viral infection and treatment

Monkeypox cases have been detected in more than 40 countries and it is a cause of worry for governments and health bodies around the world.

Devasheesh Pandey Edited by: Devasheesh Pandey New Delhi Updated on: June 24, 2022 12:30 IST
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Monkeypox virus has spread in over 40 countries till now

Monkeypox virus has been found in more than 40 countries in the world. The active cases have been reported in Europe mostly. Until last month, monkeypox had not caused sizeable outbreaks beyond Africa. Scientists haven’t found any mutations in the virus that suggest it’s more transmissible, and a leading adviser to the WHO said last month the surge of cases in Europe was likely tied to sexual activity among gay and bisexual men at two raves in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox outbreak which has infected 3,417 people across 42 countries. It has on Thursday been declared a pandemic by the World Health Network (WHN), a global collaboration of scientific and citizen teams.

Now as monkeypox cases become a cause of worry for people around the world, let's take a look at vaccines and treatment available for the treatment and in what ways you can avoid getting infected. 

Common sources of Monkeypox spread

Monkeypox spreads through close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. However, WHO warned that asymptomatic contacts of the confirmed patient to "not donate blood, cells, tissue, organs, breast milk, or semen while they are under symptom surveillance". The global health body has also maintained that, while the current outbreak seems to more common among men who had sex with other men, "anyone can be infected with monkeypox if they have close physical contact with someone else who is infected".

 

Are drugs needed for Monekypox treatment?

Medicines are not normally needed to treat monkeypox. The illness is usually mild and most people infected will recover within a few weeks without needing treatment. But there are vaccines that can be used to control monkeypox outbreaks, which some countries are already using. And treatments do exist for those who become quite ill from the virus. Due to something called cross-protection, smallpox vaccines also work for monkeypox. Although the world was declared free of smallpox in 1980, many countries keep stocks of smallpox vaccines for emergencies. Smallpox vaccine can be up to 85 per cent effective in stopping infection with the monkeypox virus if it is given before people are exposed to the virus.

Antivirals for Monkeypox treatment 

Some antiviral medications might have the potential to shorten symptoms of Monkeypox and reduce the amount of time a patient is contagious, according to a study. There are currently no licensed treatments for monkeypox and there is limited data on the duration of its contagiousness, with the incubation period ranging from five to 21 days. Tecovirimat is approved in the US for treating smallpox only. It has been tested in healthy humans and shown to stop the smallpox virus in the lab. 

Another antiviral that might be used is cidofovir – an injectable drug licensed in the UK to treat a serious viral eye infection in people with AIDS. Because cidofovir stops smallpox in the laboratory, it could be authorised for emergency use in smallpox or monkeypox outbreaks.

Brincidofovir (brand name Tembexa) is given by mouth and can be prescribed to people of any age. It is also listed as a potential drug for treating Monkeypox.

Smallpox vaccines work for Monkeypox treatment

There are two types of smallpox vaccine and can be used for protection from monkeypox also. The main one in this group is ACAM2000, which is approved in the US for protecting people against smallpox. But, ACAM2000 can cause many side effects and shouldn’t be given to at-risk groups, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with weakened immune systems. People with weakened immune systems, including those with HIV, can get very ill from the vaccine.

The other vaccine is Aventis Pasteur Smallpox Vaccine. It is not formally approved, but can be made available if other supplies run out.

Imvanex, made by Danish biotechnology firm Bavarian Nordic, has been licensed in the European Union for preventing smallpox.

(With inputs from news agencies)