How dangerous is monkeypox? Dallas man hospitalized with rare disease in first US case since 2003

The man who had recently traveled to Nigeria has been isolated and is being treated. No threat to genral public is expected


                            How dangerous is monkeypox? Dallas man hospitalized with rare disease in first US case since 2003
CDC says that in humans, the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on July 16 that Texas had seen its first case of Monkeypox. The disease was recorded in a traveler who landed at Love Field airport, from Nigeria. The individual has now been isolated and is being treated, and the CDC is working with local officials to contact and test others on the flight. 

The alarming news comes days after the US recorded another spike in Covid-19 cases, mostly among unvaccinated individuals. The CDC also confirmed the existence of "breakthrough Covid", where vaxxed individuals can also get reinfected. The breaking news has led Los Angeles county to become the first to reimpose its mask mandate, as the new Delta Plus variant storms the world. 

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Amid the challenges of Covid-19, a new disease spread might not be the news you were wanting to hear in 2021, but unfortunately, it is true. The good news is, the disease isn't expected to become another pandemic. Here's everything you need to know about Monkeypox and the case in Dallas.

British Diamond Princess evacuees arrive at Boscombe Down airfield on a repatriation flight from Tokyo on February 22, 2020, in Amesbury, United Kingdom. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

 

What is Monkeypox?

Like Covid-19 and Smallpox, Monkeypox is caused by a virus. The CDC says it is a rare disease, but can be potentially fatal if not treated on time. The symptoms of Monkeypox begin with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion (like most viruses). It then leads to swollen lymph nodes, followed by the characteristic appearance of rashes. The rashes first start on the face, before spreading all over the body and eventually fall off. The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body.

According to the CDC, the illness can last for two to four weeks and causes death in about 1 of every 10 people infected. The good news is, we do have some form of treatment, but the bad news is it is not specifically for Monkeypox. The CDC says smallpox vaccines and antiviral treatments can be used, but they are not guaranteed to work. We are yet to come up with a safe, effective treatment for the disease, as well as its own vaccine. 

On the bright side though, we may not need to get another vaccine just yet. The disease is extremely rare, with only a handful of cases recorded in the US since it was first discovered in 1970. Currently, most cases are being recorded in Nigeria (around 446 since 2017) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (around 1,000/year). The US recorded 47 cases in 2003, but the outbreak was quickly controlled. The case in Dallas is the second in the western world in 2021, following three cases being recorded in the UK in June. 

Symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient's hand on June 5, 2003. (CDC/Getty Images)

 

Should you be worried about the case in Dallas?

For now, there is little reason to be alarmed about the Monkeypox case in the US. It is true the disease is easily transmissible just like Covid-19, but because airlines have a mandatory mask mandate, it is believed the chances of the disease spreading are low. The CDC is currently working with the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) to identify all those the individual may have come in contact with at the airport and on the flight. 

"While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm and we do not expect any threat to the general public. Dallas County Health and Human Services are working closely with local providers, as well as our state and federal partners," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Unlike Covid-19, Monkeypox is not a "silent" infection, if you have the disease, you will definitely have the very visible symptoms. That means anyone who the traveler has infected, will know they too have been infected.

DCHHS Director Dr Philip Huan said, "We have determined that there is very little risk to the general public. This is another demonstration of the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure, as we are only a plane ride away from any global infectious disease." It is believed the individual left Lagos, Nigeria on July 8 and landed in Atlanta on July 9. After a layover at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the individual then continued on to Dallas the same day.

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