Monkeypox ‘unlikely’ to be next pandemic due to how it transmits, expert says

Monkeypox is spreading in the UK, with new cases being detected on a daily basis, according to Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Officials are expecting a "significant rise", Dr Hopkins warned on BBC's Sunday Morning programme: "We are detecting more cases on a daily basis."

Monkeypox is usually caught from infected wild animals in parts of west and central Africa, and it's thought to be spread by rodents, such as rats, mice and squirrels.

The infection can be caught from an animal if you're bitten, or you touch its blood or other body fluids.

It can also be spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person though touching directly, or indirectly, or if someone coughs or sneezes.

Professor Martin Michaelis from the University of Kent spoke exclusively with the Daily Star to discuss if monkeypox could be the next pandemic.

Will there be a monkeypox pandemic?

Professor Michaelis does not believe there will be a monkeypox pandemic.

He explained: “If you had asked me in January 2020 if Covid-19 would have been the next pandemic I am not sure what I would have said, however, Covid was far more likely to be a pandemic even then rather than monkeypox.

"My honest answer is no and there are a few reasons for this.

“When looking at what makes a pathogen a pandemic many factors need to be at play."

Professor Michaelis explained how firstly and one of the most important factors is how easily it can spread.

Covid vs monkeypox

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One of the main reasons Professor Michaelis believes there won't be a pandemic like Covid, is because "Covid was an airborne pathogen, meaning it is spread through aerosols"

However, he explained that with monkeypox this is not the case, because it is believed it "may spread through the air but only if someone sneezes or coughs directly on you"

He added: “Whereas with Covid it could easily spread by simply just sitting in the same room of an infected person."

The second factor making a disease or virus dangerous is how obvious the symptoms may be.

Prof Michaelis explained: “Monkeypox is spread through close contact, not necessarily sexual, although that is how it is usually associated, but it remains not easily transmitted.

“With monkeypox the symptoms are easily recognisable which allows a person to isolate and reduce the threat of a spread.”

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Despite this, however, Prof Michaelis warns of not being complacent.

“Monkeypox can be quite deadly with around five to 10% of people dying from it.

“Fortunately, in the UK it is an industrialised country with good intensive care, and we also have a vaccine to protect us.

“Both smallpox and monkeypox have the same vaccine which offers 85% protection.

Prof Michaelis added how most people have been vaccinated against smallpox and this could offer protection, however, whether this vaccine has waned reducing protection remains unclear.

When it comes to monkeypox possibly mutating evident with Covid, again Professor Michaelis reassures by adding: “Monkeypox is DNA not RNA with RNA viruses such as Covid they are more prone to mutations, but this is not the case with DNA.

“For these reasons, I would say it is unlikely that monkeypox will be the next pandemic.”

Monkeypox symptoms

When asked about the main symptoms a person needs to be aware of warning of possible monkeypox infection, Professor Michaelis said: “The symptoms will be caused by our immune system failing.

“These will bring about symptoms such as a cold, fever, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

“A rash will then develop turning into a blister and then a scab with later falls off."

He further reiterated how unlikely monkeypox may become as serious as Covid due to the fact that monkeypox requires close contact with an ill person.

“Monkeypox is closely related to smallpox but less deadly, that is why they are called pox because they produce a rash of pimples that become pus-filled and leave pockmarks on healing, ” he added.

What to do if concerned about monkeypox

For those concerned that they may be at risk, Professor Michaelis advises seeing your doctor and being tested.

He said: “Fortunately, with monkeypox there is a four-day window when it comes to vaccinations.

“So, if a person is worried, they may have been in contact with someone who has the disease they have four days after contact for a vaccine to help.”

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