How is monkeypox spread? What are the specific symptoms of the current outbreak? Three months after the start of the pandemic, scientists are beginning to draw its outlines.
Close to 28,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide and the first deaths have already occurred.
New data on monkeypox
Monkeypox has been known for several decades in about ten African countries. But the current epidemic has many particularities, starting with the profile of the patients.
It is mainly adult men who have homosexual relations, unlike what is happening in Africa, where the disease mainly affects children.
In recent weeks, three studies published in leading medical journals – British Medical Journal (BMJ), Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) – have described the clinical picture of the disease, although the data are early, obtained from a few hundred cases.
Studies confirm that almost all cases affect men who have same-sex relationships.
How is it transmitted?
The predominance of this profile is not a surprise because it had already been documented with the appearance of the first cases.
Is it a sexually transmitted disease?
Some public health experts fear a definitive answer will stigmatize the gay community.
“Our work supports the idea that bodily contact during sexual activity is the dominant mechanism of monkeypox transmission” in the current epidemic, summarizes the Lancet study, conducted in several Spanish hospitals.
The conclusion is based in particular on the fact that the viral load was much higher in the skin lesions of the patients, compared to that contained in their respiratory system.
Some researchers had put forward the idea that airborne transmission would also play an important role in contamination, but these findings challenge this theory.
This does not mean that the disease is transmitted through semen. The hypothesis is not excluded, but current research has not proven it.
What are the symptoms?
The three studies also confirm that the current epidemic is distinguished by its symptoms, which “differ from those observed in populations affected by previous epidemics” in Africa, explains the BMJ study, which was carried out in the Kingdom. -United.
Two key elements of the disease: feversometimes accompanied by muscle aches and bodily injuries, which turn into scabs.
The details vary and the question is – surely – linked to transmission, since in recent patients certain physical manifestations seem to be linked to contamination during sexual intercourse.
About 40% of cases have complications, according to a Lancet study, while a fifth of patients required hospitalization, according to NEJM research.
According to this last study “no serious complication was detected”.
Although these studies provide a better understanding of the disease, many questions remain unanswered.
The first is the vaccine effectiveness. The Lancet study shows that a significant proportion of those affected (18%) had received a vaccine against smallpox, which is supposed to protect against monkeypox.
Patients contract monkeypox sometimes decades after vaccination, which would explain the lower protection.
Finally, it remains to be determined whether there are more risks when the patient suffers from another condition. About 40% of patients studied by the Lancet were infected with HIV. But it is impossible to know if there is a direct link or if it is a simple correlation. (AFP)