I take it back. Prairie Dogs must share the blame with the Gambian rats. This summer we are inundated with new and nearly-new diseases. As a friend of mine has been known to say, "Forget it. We’re all going to die." Fortunately, it’s not all that bad. Once again, common sense can save us, plus a little of that Boy Scout mentality, "Be Prepared."
So what do we know, or want to know about Monkey Pox, and West Nile Virus, the disease flavors for this season, and what can we do about them?Let’s begin with Monkey Pox, the big news story.
Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that occurs mostly in central and western Africa. It is called "monkeypox" because it was first found in 1958 in laboratory monkeys. Blood tests of animals in Africa later found that other types of animals probably had monkeypox
In early June 2003, monkeypox was reported among several people in the United States. Most of these people got sick after having contact with pet prairie dogs that were sick with monkeypox. This is the first time that there has been an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States.
The disease is caused by Monkeypox virus. It belongs to a group of viruses that includes the smallpox virus (variola), the virus used in the smallpox vaccine (vaccinia), and the cowpox virus.
In humans, the signs and symptoms of monkeypox are like those of smallpox, but usually they are milder. Another difference is that monkeypox causes the lymph nodes to swell. About 12 days after people are infected with the virus, they will get a fever, headache, muscle aches, and backache; their lymph nodes will swell; and they will feel tired. One to 3 days (or longer) after the fever starts, they will get a rash. This rash develops into raised bumps filled with fluid and often starts on the face and spreads, but it can start on other parts of the body too. The bumps go through several stages before they get crusty, scab over, and fall off. The illness usually lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.
In Africa, monkeypox has killed between 1 percent and 10 percent of people who get it. However, this risk would probably be lower in the United States, where nutrition and access to medical care are better. People can get monkeypox from an animal with monkeypox if they are bitten or if they touch the animal’s blood, body fluids, or its rash. The disease also can spread from person to person through large respiratory droplets during long periods of face-to-face contact or by touching body fluids of a sick person or objects such as bedding or clothing contaminated with the virus.
There’s no specific treatment for monkeypox. In Africa, people who got the smallpox vaccine in the past had a lower risk of monkeypox. CDC has sent out guidelines to prevent transmission which are similar to the SARS guidelines with airborne isolation, masks, gowns and gloves.
West Nile Virus is a mosquito borne virus first noticed in the Eastern United States, New York State to be specific. Last year we had 4000 cases in the United States, mostly in the Eastern half of the country. For 2003, as of September 4, Oklahoma has had 19 confirmed cases, 13 in the western counties, 1 in Southern Oklahoma and 5 in the Tulsa area.
What can we do? This disease hasn’t proven to be transmitted person to person except through blood transfusion from a person with the disease but when transmitted by a mosquito bite, can cause a mild, viral type illness, with flu-like symptoms lasting a few days. And occasionally causes a more severe neurological febrile illness. It is carried and transmitted by mosquitoes to humans. Testing is being performed on blood for transfusion because one or two cases of transmission in 2002 were identified when a woman received a transfusion from someone suspected of having West Nile and the organs she donated were positive for West Nile.
The best protection is not to be bitten by mosquitoes.