Monkeypox study in British journal highlights ‘new clinical course’, symptoms

Monkeypox has raised an alarm globally after an unprecedented surge this year in countries where the virus was not reported earlier. With a large number of cases registered among gay men, concerns have also been raised about discrimination. There have even been calls for change of the name of the disease.

The monkeypox disease, according to the World Health Organization, is “transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus”. The symptoms – which include fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes – typically last between two-four weeks.

Although the virus has been known since 1958 while the first case in human came to fore in 1970, a study published in the British Medical Journal last week, however, pointed out observations by researchers, suggesting a “new clinical course to the disease”.

The study was conducted among 197 participants, and 196 of them were gay men or those having sex with men.

Rectal pain and penile oedema (painless, non-tender swelling of the penis) were among the new clinical presentations identified.

“A variable temporal association was observed between mucocutaneous and systemic features, suggesting a new clinical course to the disease. New clinical presentations of monkeypox infection were identified, including rectal pain and penile oedema. These presentations should be included in public health messaging to aid early diagnosis and reduce onward transmission,” said the researchers in their conclusion.

Monkeypox is caused due to an orthopoxvirus, which rarely causes disease in humans, says the journal, adding that the first reports of humans becoming infected were recorded in 1970, when a smallpox-like illness was investigated in areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo thought to be free of variola.

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The WHO had declared a global public health emergency last week. However, experts have been constantly stressing that there’s no need to panic.