What is Monkeypox? WHO Just Declared it a Global Health Emergency

Andrew Hyunseung Kim
3 min readJul 23, 2022
Credit: UK Health Security Agency/Science Photo Library

This May, an outbreak of the monkeypox disease was confirmed, and just a few hours ago, the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes declared monkeypox a global health emergency. But some people may not have heard of monkeypox, or others may ask, “Is this another Covid-19 pandemic?” In order to understand this “new” virus, let’s dig into the history.

Monkeypox virus, related to the virus that causes smallpox, was first reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was found to be linked to contact with wildlife such as rodents. During this time period, monkeypox circulated across Africa but was endemic and initially thought of as nontransferable between humans due to limited secondary spread. However, Professor Chloe Orkin of Queen Mary University of London found that sexual activity accounted for most transmissions. Contrary to prior beliefs of the virus being nontransferable, any physical contact or exchange of bodily fluids was found to be grounds for transmission, similar to the Covid-19 virus.

The symptoms of monkeypox are similar but milder than that of smallpox. Some common symptoms include fever, headaches, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, and the most indicative symptom, rashes that appear like blisters. Unlike smallpox, which had a mortality rate of about 30%, monkeypox has a mortality rate ranging between 3–6%. Despite the low mortality rate, it is important that especially during this time, people monitor themselves for any early signs of symptoms as this virus was only recently declared a global health emergency. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is best to consult your medical provider in order to verify whether you are diagnosed with monkeypox, whereupon if you are diagnosed with the virus, you should self-isolate at home and leave your rashes untouched. Most cases of monkeypox can be treated by self-isolating, but there is a vaccine called the Jynneos vaccine which may be recommended for close contact cases.

As was the case with Covid-19, stigma and discrimination may arise as a result of the monkeypox virus. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Asian Americans in the US were blamed for the spread of the virus and experienced increased levels of discrimination, with 70.9% of reported cases being verbal harassment and 8.7% being physical assault according to Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center. With the current monkeypox outbreak, scientists from the Queen Mary University of London have found that 98% of infected people were gay or bisexual men. Unfortunately, given this data, it may be likely that gay and bisexual men experience similar discrimination as Asian Americans during Covid-19. However, as the WHO has declared this outbreak early on as a national health emergency, if we are able to contain the spread of the virus, no such discrimination needs to surface and hurt our society.

Although in the 1970s, monkeypox was endemic in Africa, it is currently a pressing emergency that has made its way to 16,000 people in 75 countries. Whether countries like Singapore will make monkeypox vaccines mandatory as it did with covid vaccines, or enforce stricter social distancing measures is news that we can expect to hear as the world cracks down on this virus with the knowledge and experience it has gained through the Covid-19 pandemic.

--

--

Andrew Hyunseung Kim

Interests in current events, social issues, research, and economics. Student at Singapore American School