Plague monkey pox which initially only existed in Africa since it was first detected in the 1970s, has now spread throughout the world. WHO has declared monkeypox as a global health emergency which means its current status is the same as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Monkeypox is so named because it was first discovered in monkeys. The virus that causes it is related to the deadly smallpox virus that was successfully eradicated in 1980, but is much milder.
The viral mutation currently circulating outside of Africa is a lighter version of the two known versions.
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1970: First case
Monkeypox in humans was first identified in the body of a nine-year-old boy in 1970 in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After that it became endemic in areas of central and western Africa where 11 countries reported cases of monkeypox. The virus spreads from close contact with infected animals or humans.
2003: Outbreak outside Africa
The infection could reach the US it is believed because of the importation of rodents from Ghana then infecting herding dogs.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 87 cases but no deaths.
2017: Nigeria epidemic
A major outbreak of monkeypox occurred in Nigeria in 2017. At that time 200 cases were confirmed and the mortality ratio was 3 percent according to the WHO.
Over the next five years, cases were reported worldwide from Nigerian travelers, mainly in the UK, Israel, Singapore and the US.
May 2022: Soaring beyond Africa
In May 2022 a large number of cases were detected in countries outside Africa, in people with no history of travel to the region. Most of those affected are gay men.
As of May 20, the UK recorded 20 cases, most of them gay men.
End of May 2022: Vaccination begins
On May 23, the US said it was preparing to give a smallpox vaccine, which it says is effective against monkeypox, to people who have had close contact with the patient.
June 2022: 1,000 cases
In early June, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 1,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox had been reported from 29 countries that had never reported it.
On June 21, the UK announced plans to offer a vaccine to gay and bisexual men.
On June 23, WHO experts met to discuss the threat of monkeypox but at that time it had not been declared a global health emergency
July 2022: Nearly 16,000 cases, 72 countries
As of July 14, the US CDC reported more than 11,000 confirmed cases in about 60 countries where monkeypox is not usually found. Most cases occur in Europe, the US and Canada.
On July 20, Tedros announced nearly 14,000 cases from 70 countries. There were five deaths, all in Africa.
On July 21 WHO held an expert meeting to discuss whether the monkeypox status would be upgraded.
WHO states that currently nearly 16,000 cases have been reported from 72 countries.