Monkeypox virus has mutated: How lethal can it’s? Experts reply 

Even as World Health Organisation (WHO) has determined to not declare monkeypox a public well being emergency, it has acknowledged there have been many unknowns concerning the outbreak. WHO chief asserted that “deeply involved” about the evolving threat of monkeypox. So far, over 4,100 confirmed cases have been reported from more than 50 countries. 

Is the monkeypox virus mutating?

Monkeypox is a large DNA virus belonging to the orthopoxvirus family. Unlike the related smallpox virus, variola, which only affected humans, monkeypox virus is found in rodents and other animals in parts of Africa. Orthopoxviruses are stable viruses that do not mutate much. 

However, the virus causing the current outbreak has several mutations compared with versions of the virus circulating in Africa. However, we don’t know if these mutations affect clinical disease and how the virus spreads, UNSW Sydney study showed, as reported by news agency PTI. 

In the United States, at least two separate strains have been circulating, suggesting multiple introductions into the country.

Experts are yet to understand whether the mutations have made it more contagious or changed the clinical pattern to be more like a sexually transmitted infection.

Will these mutations change the ways it spreads?  

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Monkeypox is a respiratory virus and it has never been described as a sexually transmitted infection in the past. However, the current transmission pattern is unusual. There seems to be a very short incubation period (of 24 hours) following sexual contact in some, but not all, cases.

The rapid growth of the epidemic in non-endemic countries in 2022, however, has been all due to spread between humans. There may be many more cases than officially reported.

The report cited, that it is yet to be understood why the pattern has changed, whether it is sexually transmitted or simply transmitted due to intimate contact in specific and globally connected social networks, or whether the virus has become more contagious.

How far will it spread? Does COVID make a difference?

As people recover from COVID, their immune system is impaired. So people who have had COVID may be more susceptible to other infections.

“We see the same with measles infection. This weakens the immune system and increases the risk of other infections for two to three years afterwards,” report states.

(With inputs from businesses)

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