(CTN News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently designated monkeypox (mpox) as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), marking a significant development in our understanding of this infectious ailment.
Monkeypox, caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV), is typically found in densely forested regions of West, Central, and East Africa, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo experiencing its largest outbreak to date.
This new classification by the WHO has sparked concerns among African scientists, who fear that the already challenging task of eradicating the disease may become even more formidable.
The anxieties are underscored by a recent case involving a Belgian citizen who contracted monkeypox after visiting the Congo in March 2023.
Understanding Monkeypox (Mpox) Disease:
Monkeypox is characterized by the transmission of the monkeypox virus through close contact with infected humans or animals, as well as exposure to contaminated materials such as sheets.
The disease was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing symptoms like a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes, and fever. While most individuals recover fully, some may experience severe illness.
According to the WHO, since 2022, a global epidemic of clade IIb MPXV has been underway, affecting countries outside Africa that had not previously reported monkeypox cases.
The transmission of this epidemic has been primarily through sexual contact, especially among men who have sex with men.
Sexual Transmission and the Congo Outbreak:
Remarkably, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the epicenter of the ongoing outbreak, has not reported cases of mpox linked to clade IIb MPXV.
The country has only detected MPXV clade I until April 2023, with no formally documented cases of sexual transmission of clade I MPXV globally.
However, this changed when a Belgian resident, with ties to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tested positive for clade I in Kenge, Kwango province, during a visit to the country.
Following this case, sexual contacts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also tested positive for clade I MPXV, sharing closely related viral sequences. This marks the first documented instance of sexual transmission within a cluster for clade I MPXV.
Traditionally, monkeypox has been prevalent in central and west Africa, primarily transmitted to humans from infected rodents, leading to sporadic outbreaks.
However, in 2022, a surge in cases occurred, driven primarily by sexual contact among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Europe, spreading to over 100 countries.
The WHO declared it a global health emergency, with over 91,000 cases reported globally to date. The evolving nature of monkeypox transmission underscores the need for continued research and vigilant public health measures to contain its spread and mitigate its impact.