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Following a recent outbreak of monkeypox cases – a rare viral disease originating from the African continent, cases have now started to emerge in the US, Europe and Australia.

Germany on Friday reported its first virus case; previously UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Sweden have also reported monkeypox cases. This week cases also emerged in US and Australia.

Health authorities are investigating the root cause of a recent spike in Europe, the US and Australia. They are also suspecting the risk of a wider outbreak of the monkeypox which is also supposed to have spread from travellers from Africa.

However, no case has yet been found in Pakistan and South Asia.

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What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Originating from the same family as smallpox, it is usually less severe. The virus was first detected in captive monkeys in 1958 and the first-ever the human case was recorded in 1970. This disease generally occurs in remote parts of Central and West Africa.

So far at least 10 African countries have seen intermittently reported cases of monkeypox. Nigeria amongst them being the most affected in 2017, reporting 172 suspected and 61 confirmed cases.

Historically cases have been less common outside Africa and are associated with international travel or imported animals. **

How can someone catch monkeypox?

Monkeypox spreads when an affected person comes in close contact with someone. Animals as well as things can carry the virus. The virus can also enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose and mouth.

Human-to-human transmission most commonly occurs through respiratory droplets and even though monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, it can be caught through intercourse. Animal-to-human transmission may occur via a bite or scratch.

What are its symptoms?

Fever, headaches, muscle ache, swelling and back pain are common initial symptoms.

After one to three days of fever, patients typically develop a rash often starting on the face and spreading to the entire body. The rash causes severe itching and develops through several stages before the legions scab and fall off. The infection usually lasts two to four weeks and then clears up on its own.

How can it be treated?

Currently, there are no proven treatments, which may also be safe, especially since most cases are mild.

People suspected of having the virus are isolated in separate spaces and monitored by healthcare professionals using personal protective equipment.

Smallpox vaccines have proven largely effective in preventing the spread of the monkeypox virus. Countries including the UK and Spain are now offering the vaccine to help reduce symptoms and limit the spread.

Can it spread around the world?

A low death rate has been reported but in some cases, the viral can be severe.

Health authorities believe that the world is not on the brink of a serious outbreak and the risks to the general public remain very low. They also urge people who experience new rashes or are concerned about monkeypox to contact their healthcare provider immediately and isolate themselves from others.