What is Orthopoxvirus? NY masks up as CDC issues alert for virus genus responsible for monkeypox

New Yorkers have been advised to mask up even in public indoor settings


                            What is Orthopoxvirus? NY masks up as CDC issues alert for virus genus responsible for monkeypox
CDC advises New Yorkers to mask up after finding the virus that belongs to the same genus as monkeypox (Photo: Jeenah Moon/CDC/Getty Images)
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The past two years have been eventful, unfortunately. With coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, the entire world went into lockdown mode. But just when things were starting to ease up, New York seems to be out of luck and under scrutiny again. A patient in New York has tested positive for a family of viruses that monkeypox belongs to, declared health officials on Friday, May 20.

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The health department wasted no time in issuing a warning to the residents, advising them to mask up once again while we still actively battle coronavirus. Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aka CDC, is unsure whether it is monkeypox or a virus from the same genus. The patient tested positive for orthopoxvirus which signifies the genus of viruses that includes monkeypox, smallpox, cowpox, horsepox, and camelpox. 

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Currently, the New Yorkers are advised to mask up to protect themselves from three issues — monkeypox, coronavirus, and the flu. The NYC health department in a statement said: "Masks can protect against monkeypox, as well as other viruses circulating in New York City, such as COVID-19. The Department continues to recommend masks in public indoor settings. As a precaution, any New Yorkers who experience flu-like illness with swelling of the lymph nodes and rashes on the face and body should contact their health care provider."

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The bad news rolled in just when New Yorkers were adjusting to a mask-free life. The CDC has also encouraged health departments, doctors, and nurses to stay alert for cases related to monkeypox. The virus is said to transmit via physical contact but can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets in the air. CDC issued a warning on their website as well, saying, "Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to investigate a situation in which a U.S. resident tested positive for monkeypox on May 18 after returning to the U.S. from Canada. CDC is also tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox that have been reported in early- to mid-May in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including in Europe and North America."

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In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient?s hand June 5, 2003. The CDC said the viral disease monkeypox, thought to be spread by prairie dogs, has been detected in the Americas for the first time with about 20 cases reported in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. (Photo Courtesy of CDC/Getty Images) 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is actively spreading awareness on Twitter about the disease with statistics and how to combat the same. On Friday, an emergency meeting discussed the recent outbreak of the virus after 100 confirmed and suspected cases in Europe. To top it all off, the virus has been identified in nine countries - Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK. While tweeting, WHO confirmed, "#Monkeypox has so far been reported from 11 countries that normally don't have the disease. WHO is working with these countries & others to expand surveillance, and provide guidance. There are about 80 confirmed cases and 50 pending investigations. More likely to be reported."

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What's the history of Monkeypox?

Before we get all freaked out about the virus, we should know some facts. The virus is most commonly found in central and western African countries. 

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In this 1971 Center For Disease Control handout photo, monkeypox-like lesions are shown on the arm and leg of a female child in Bondua, Liberia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said June 7 the viral disease monkeypox, thought to be spread by prairie dogs, has been detected in the Americas for the first time with about 20 cases reported in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. (Photo Courtesy of the CDC/Getty Images) 

The disease begins with fever, headache, aches, and exhaustion. It also swells the lymph nodes, which differentiates it from smallpox. The illness can last up to 2-4 weeks, and according to CDC, it has been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who come in contact with the disease. The alert from CDC comes only a day after the agency confirmed a single case of monkeypox virus infection. Quick action might just be the remedy.

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What is Orthopoxvirus?

Orthopoxvirus is a genus of viruses (family of viruses) associated with diseases like smallpox, cowpox, horsepox, camelpox, and monkeypox. The most widely known member of the genus is Variola virus, which causes smallpox, that was eradicated globally by 1977. The initial symptoms of Orthopoxvirus infection include fever, malaise, head and body aches, and occasionally vomiting.

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