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The mystery of the global spread of monkeypox


When Moritz Kraemer first heard of the new monkeypox outbreak spreading through the UK, Europe and the US, it was not through the usual scientific channels, or from the UK Health Security Service (UKHSA), but via Twitter. As each suspected case was reported and infectious disease experts shared their theories in real time, Kraemer, an epidemiologist at Oxford University who specializes in modeling the spread of infectious diseases – becoming increasingly concerned.

“We recognize that this outbreak is unusual in its geographic expansion, with some clusters unrelated to tourism,” he said. In the past, when monkeypox appeared in Europe or North America, cases could easily be traced back to countries where the virus was endemic. Not this time. To keep up with how the virus spread, Kraemer quickly created Monkey smallpox tracker, collate information on confirmed and suspected cases. It was the same tool that neatly visualized all that was unusual about the new outbreak.

Although monkeypox is endemic to West and Central Africa, it is not known to be particularly contagious. It was first found in monkeys in 1958, but rodents and other small mammals are thought to be the main hosts of the animals, and the virus is usually transmitted by close contact between the organisms. this to humans, causing people to have a fever, as well as a bumpy rash that tells the story.

It can also spread from person to person — through respiratory droplets or bodily fluids of an infected person — but this tends to be less common, as monkeypox is not contagious until a person is sick. people with symptoms, so they are more likely to be convalescing and avoiding contact with others. Mateo Prochazka, an epidemiologist at UKHSA, said some of the longest recorded transmission chains for the virus were just six consecutive person-to-person transmissions.

But as the Monkey Smallpox Tracker illustrates, clusters of cases have suddenly emerged globally with no apparent link to endemic countries. The UK has 57 confirmed cases so far, along with cases in Portugal and Spain, but cases have also emerged in countries as far away as Canada and Australia.

So what’s going on? Some scientists initially surmised that a new, more contagious form of monkeypox might have emerged, but now the first genetic sequences of the virus from the outbreak are being published and appear to suggest the opposite. Last Friday, scientists at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, publish a series isolated from a 30-year-old patient showed circulating monkeypox similar to the one that occurred in 2018. Other sequence from a Portuguese patient also appeared similar to the virus forms discovered in 2018.

“If the viral genomes from this outbreak were very similar to those that have come before, we would feel more confident that it didn’t,” said Jo Walker, a researcher at the Yale School of Public Health. there’s been some evolutionary leap in transmissibility.”

It seems more likely that this outbreak arose from an outbreak of cases in parts of Africa, combined with a spike in air travel after the end. pandemic limitations and impaired immunity against orthopoxvirus—the family of viruses that contain monkeypox, smallpox, smallpox, and others—in large swaths of the planet. Jamie Lloyd-Smith, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied smallpox in monkeys for more than a decade, says immunity against this family of viruses has dwindled in humans since the illness began. Smallpox was eliminated in 1980.



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