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What Is Monkeypox? Will It Affect Pregnancy? Everything You Need to Know About

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Despite its rapid emergence in 2022 following the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Monkeypox is not a newly found disease. The zoonotic disease was first detected in 1958 in colonies of monkeys. Following that, the first reported clinical case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The condition is very prevalent across African countries, especially in the underdeveloped countries across central and western African countries. However, recent reports also suggest the infection spread to countries like Israel, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and even Singapore.

Given its alarming resurgence across multiple countries worldwide, global health bodies like the World Health Organization suggest optimal precautions against the further spread of the infection.

This article will further explore Monkeypox, the standard symptoms, treatment options and its impacts on pregnancy.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare type of zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus. The condition mimics the symptoms of smallpox and is prevalent in different countries across Africa.

Although there are no confirmed sources, researchers believe that the spread of the monkeypox virus is caused by small rodents and squirrels across the African forests. Since the vectors of the disease are animals, it is classified as a zoonotic infection.

Besides Africa, most of the reported cases of monkeypox are spread through tourists or travellers who have accidentally contracted the virus during their travel. In Africa itself, around 90% of the reported cases of monkeypox were prevalent in children below the age of 15.

How is Monkeypox Transmitted?

Contrary to popular beliefs, monkeypox is rarely transmitted from one infected human to the other. The risks of transmission are still present via:

  • Close skin contact
  • Air droplets
  • Exchange of bodily fluids
  • Contact with virus-contaminated objects

The animal to human transmission of the virus generally happens if the person has an open wound or if the animal bites and directly infects the person’s blood.

What are the Symptoms of Monkeypox Disease?

As we mentioned earlier, monkeypox mimics the symptoms of smallpox. One of the primary reasons people get a late diagnosis is that most of the symptoms mimic that of the flu.

Some of the most prevalent symptoms to look out for are:

  • High-grade fever
  • Chills
  • Constant muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Remember that an infected person doesn’t show the symptoms right after contracting the virus. It takes up to 21 days for the virus to project its impacts. This period is known as the incubation period. It is common with almost every kind of viral infection.

Although not fatal, some cases of monkeypox can lead to high risks of fatalities. Currently, the fatality ratio is 3-6%.

How is Monkeypox Diagnosed and Treated?

The route of diagnosis starts with a basic understanding of the symptoms. Your healthcare provider will first enquire about your symptoms and your recent travel history.

If your doctor suspects that you might have the monkeypox virus, they will conduct a row of blood tests and tissue culturing to confirm their suspicions.

The blood tests generally test for antibodies in your blood against the monkeypox virus. With a formal diagnosis, the next step is to treat the condition.

Currently, there is no proven cure for the monkeypox virus. Your doctor might start you on antiviral drugs to combat the rapid spread of the infection. However, the most crucial form of treatment is the “wait and watch” process.

Your doctor will closely monitor the symptoms and provide the needed medication for optimal symptom management. With a strong immune system, most infected people recover on their own.

Does Monkeypox affect Pregnancy?

With the emergence of varying health threats, we need to rationalize and understand its implications on pregnancy and the health of the developing fetus.

There are not many studies relating to monkeypox and pregnancy yet. However, a few studies showcase the impacts of the prevalence of monkeypox.

The first case of perinatal monkeypox infection was reported in Zaire during 24-weeks gestation. The infected woman said she had a febrile illness with notable rashes on the skin. She delivered at 30-weeks gestation and delivered a pre-term baby weighing 1.5 kg. The baby was born with a skin rash similar to the symptoms of monkeypox.

In another study with 222 symptomatic patients, four were pregnant mothers. Out of the four pregnant women infected with the monkeypox virus, one delivered a healthy baby, two-faced miscarriages during the first trimester, and one woman experienced fetal death. The stillborn baby showcased symptoms of skin rashes on the body’s head, trunk, and extremities.

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, preliminary research suggests that contracting the monkeypox virus during pregnancy can prove fatal for the mother and the developing fetus. There is evidence of the infected pregnant woman transmitting the virus to their newborns.

So, ensure to practice all precautionary and preventive measures for the optimal health of the baby and the mother throughout the pregnancy term.

How to Prevent Monkeypox Virus?

Ever since the redundancy of the smallpox virus, the availability of monkeypox vaccination is now limited to people who work in diagnostic laboratories. It is not readily available for public use.

So, the best protection against the virus is to adopt the effective preventive measures, including:

  • Avoid travelling to countries where there is an emergence of the monkeypox virus
  • Avoid coming in contact with animals that are proven vectors of the monkeypox virus
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after accidentally coming in contact with an infected animal or object
  • Cook meats and meals thoroughly to kill any presence of the virus
  • Avoid coming in contact with people who might have the infection

If you suspect that you might have contracted the monkeypox virus during your travel, see a doctor immediately to curtail the impacts and manage the symptoms better.

FAQs

What should I do if I have Monkeypox?

The first thing to do is consult a qualified healthcare provider. Your doctor can give you a detailed outlook on further treatment and quarantine options to prevent the further spreading of the infection.

Is there any treatment for Monkeypox?

Monkeypox symptoms can be managed with antiviral and antipyretic medications to keep the fever and flu-like symptoms in check. Your doctor will monitor the signs and wait for your immune system to fight the disease and recover from it.

Can people die from Monkeypox?

The fatality of the monkeypox virus is 3-6% only. Most of the cases recover on their own with optimal symptom management.

Conclusion

Monkeypox virus is an emerging concern, but it can be managed by abiding by preventive measures. If you suspect that you have contracted the virus, avoid delaying and consult your healthcare provider for further assistance. Never take the symptoms for granted, especially if you are pregnant.

 

Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.

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