So far, five cases of monkeypox have been reported in Mexico, informed this Tuesday by the Undersecretary of Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell. This is after the second case of this disease was reported last Sunday, June 12, in Mexico City.
Four of the infections have been reported in Mexico City, while one was reported in Jalisco, in a patient of U.S. origin who fled to his place of residence a few hours after being treated. His case has been confirmed in both Mexico and the United States. The health official expects more cases of monkeypox to be reported, especially in people who come into contact with an infected person.
"The most probable thing is that we are going to continue finding sporadically some cases and some outbreaks, the link of one case infecting another, of these 5, one was infected by another of the same group", he indicated. Given this situation, he asked people not to get upset because there are no indications that this disease could become a pandemic or a phenomenon similar to COVID-19. "It is very important to maintain clarity and not to get carried away by panic and especially by this media wave", he warned.
Lopez-Gatell explained that there are only two vaccines that provide mediocre protection against monkeypox. "It is possible that there is some encouragement from the pharmaceutical industry, unlike some four or five years ago, today there are two vaccines that have mediocre protection against monkeypox," he said.
There is also an antiviral drug with certain effectiveness, of which he did not specify the name, but he assured us that none of these options is a "definitive solution to a problem that is localized and punctual".
What else do authorities say about monkeypox in Mexico?
In a press release, the Ministry of Health explained that the disease develops in two periods which are generally self-limit to two to four weeks after the onset of symptoms. Phase one occurs in the first five days and is characterized by fever, intense headache, lower back, and muscle pain, as well as swollen glands, and a lack of desire to move or do any physical activity.
In the second phase, small blisters appear during the first three days after the onset of fever; the rash usually affects the face first and then spreads to the rest of the body.
The agency explained that the diagnosis of virus detection is performed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in samples of wet or dry exudate from skin lesions, preferably the fluid from vesicles or pustules; alternatively, crusts.
Just last May 25, the National Committee for Epidemiological Surveillance (Conave) issued an epidemiological alert to health units so that, in the event of detecting any suspected case of monkeypox, biological samples should be sent to public health laboratories to confirm or rule out cases of this disease.
The warning was issued to all medical units of the first, second, and third level of care, Hospital Epidemiological Surveillance Units, and members of the National Network of Public Health Laboratories, to have any suspicious case under surveillance and to notify the corresponding units.
The Ministry of Health recommended the general population wash their hands frequently, with soap and water or alcohol gel solution; cover the nose and mouth with the inside of the elbow when sneezing or coughing, and avoid sharing food, drinks, cutlery, and dishes.
"When physically close to a sick person, wear a medical mask, especially if he or she is coughing or has lesions in the mouth; wash clothes, towels, eating utensils, and sheets that have been in contact with the sick person, using warm water and detergent," he said.
Hugo Lopez-Gatell also suggested cleaning and disinfecting spaces where a sick person has been found and avoiding close contact, especially with lesions; if they are to be touched, use gloves and dispose of them correctly.
In case of presenting symptoms, seek medical attention and do not approach other people, while he reminded that travel and trade restrictions from countries where cases have been identified are not recommended.
The history of monkeypox
Monkeypox was first detected in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in recent weeks it has had an unprecedented expansion in Europe and North America.
It is caused by a virus and is considered a zoonosis because it originates in animals and is transmitted to humans; it is one of many that we share with them. It is called monkey virus, but in reality, the main hosts are not primates, but different species of wild rodents, such as mice and squirrels endemic to central Africa: most cases have occurred in the Congo and Nigeria.
A few years ago there were occasional outbreaks outside the black continent, all originating from people who traveled to endemic areas and became ill on their return home. Now, however, the presence of this disease has been demonstrated in people who have not traveled to African territory; we are looking for the focal point, where they could have been infected, probably from other people.
Out of a thousand people who become infected with the virus, 100 will manifest symptoms between eight and 14 days after infection (including muscle pains, fever, and skin rashes) and, of these, two or three could die. This depends on how early they seek and receive medical care and their health conditions, although children under 16 years of age seem to be more susceptible. The signs can last two to three weeks, depending on the immunological conditions of each patient.
The control of the disease will probably have preventive management that includes vaccination; the treatment would consist of keeping the patients in isolation, strengthening their immune system, and applying existing antivirals.
In any case, it will be important to notify the authorities promptly in the event of any suspicion; if there is malaise, headache, muscle pain, or fever, it is necessary to go to the physician, who is trained to attend and recommend the measures to be followed. The main care is isolation, a strict quarantine, and the follow-up of the people with whom the patient had contact so that they can also isolate themselves.
Travelers to countries where cases have occurred should take precautions and avoid contact with other people. The measures we learned with COVID-19 are also valid for monkeypox.
Use mouth covers, hand washing, and healthy distance. The latter helps to reduce the risk of acquiring this disease to almost zero. In addition, we must be attentive to the indications that the authorities may provide in this regard, go to reliable sources of information, such as the World Health Organization, and avoid being in contact with or acquiring wild or exotic fauna.