Monkey pox: symptoms, how to get infected, sexual intercourse, vaccines and the risks of an epidemic

Vittorio Sambri. director of the microbiology laboratory of the Ausl Romagna, in Pievesestina di Cesena

The institute of health has set up a task force to monitor the spread of the monkeypox virus in Italy, isolated in four patients at the Spallanzani Institute in Rome. In Pievesestina di Cesena, where the Ausl Romagna microbiology laboratory is based, we are ready to isolate the virus if cases are reported, explains the director, professor Vittorio Sambri who specifies that to date no cases have been reported in Emilia-Romagna. For the record, the monkeypox virus in humans presents with fever, body aches, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue and skin manifestations such as blisters, pustules, small scabs. In Italy, at the moment the spread of this virus is rather modest considering at least the limited number of confirmed cases. More important, however, are the numbers registered in Spain, Portugal and England for a total of 100 cases in the European Union alone. The disease, as known, is considered endemic in some regions of Africa and its spread has only sporadically affected other areas of the planet. For Professor Sambri the risk of a widespread and severe epidemic, for now I underline, is modest, and for a number of reasons: contagion occurs directly and the virus not new like, on the contrary, the Coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic.


Vittorio Sambri, in Pievesestina are you equipped to isolate monkeypox?
We have not yet ascertained cases but we are ready, we have the reagents for the swabs and everything we need to identify the virus. In Spain and Portugal the number of infected people begins to be important, elsewhere we are talking about small numbers. It is certainly possible that the epidemic is moving and we are ready to isolate this virus. I do not rule out that there will be unjustified alarms: for example, people who will contract chickenpox who will be convinced that they have contracted monkeypox. As with the Coronavirus, as I mentioned before, the administration of the tampon is necessary to ascertain cases.

How do you get infected?
Need direct contact. With an infected mucous membrane or with a blister or with body fluids. Even with saliva if prolonged contact. As for the outbreak, there are those who hypothesize that there are behaviors that favor this type of transmission, on the other the hypothesis of a virus that has adapted more to humans. I think the first hypothesis is more probable, even if science cannot rule out that something has changed in the “behavior” of the virus and why, if that is the case, it has changed. The hypothesis formulated on the higher incidence of infections in the homosexual community is obviously not discriminatory: it is not a “homosexual” disease. It should be emphasized that it is probable that outbreaks of this virus can more easily develop in a “closed” community as regards interpersonal relationships. More attention is needed, for example, if you relate to people when they have obvious skin manifestations.

What kind of virus is monkeypox?
a pox virus, therefore, it is the same family of human smallpox, the one eradicated thanks to the vaccination campaigns of the last century. Therefore not a casual name. no smallpox vaccines have been given since 1979. To date, the vaccinated groups (certainly not the youngest therefore) are still protected by that vaccine. In part, because the years have passed and in any case we are talking about a different virus, albeit from the same family. Certainly the antibodies did not pass from parents to children and grandchildren.

However, a less serious disease even for those who are not vaccinated.
Absolutely yes, at least the strain we know. We are talking about a self-limiting disease from which we tend to heal spontaneously, a bit like it happens with chickenpox or measles. There was a case of a child who developed a fairly severe form of viral infections, many of which develop more severely in children than in healthy adults. It heals spontaneously or when needed with life support therapies, but a net minority of cases.

So can we consider ourselves safe from a new pandemic?
Coronavirus was and a new virus, monkeypox we have known for decades and it behaves with humans as it did thirty years ago. always been a virus that spread, for example, with travel to exotic areas. There are abysmal differences between the contagiousness of Coronavirus and that of monkeypox. Coronavirus is contracted through the respiratory tract, we learned to live at the beginning on a droplet scale, with masks precisely because it is transmitted without even touching each other with simple proximity. On the other hand, direct and physical contact is required with monkeypox. There is no reason to think of a dangerous spread of monkeypox.

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May 24, 2022 (change May 24, 2022 | 18:38)

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