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Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by a virus (Orthopoxvirus), so far localised in central and west Africa. Its name is due to it being identified for the first time from cases detected in a colony of monkeys used for research in 1958.

The first human case was identified in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970; the natural reservoir of the virus is unknown. Non-human primates and African rodents can carry the virus and infect people.

In Africa, case fatality has historically been between 1% and 10%. Clinically, the vast majority of cases appear to be mild. One of the variants that causes monkeypox has been identified in some of the confirmed cases, specifically the west African variant, and is usually milder.

The majority of cases are reported to be men between the ages of 20-50 who have sex with men (MSM). Although monkeypox has not previously been observed to be sexually transmitted, sexual activity involves close contact. Therefore, it is believed that contagion by close and direct contact, either via droplet nuclei (large droplets) or by contact with skin or mucosal lesions, may have occurred in an environment of sexual intercourse.

It would seem that the virus was accidentally introduced into one or more gay or bisexual communities, and has continued to circulate there, as this would partly explain the pattern of transmission seen so far.

Substantiated information by:

Anna Vilella
Antoni Trilla

Published: 27 May 2022
Updated: 27 May 2022

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