Monkeypox is Impacting the Most in the Americas
One of the most important epicenters of the monkeypox outbreak is in the region of the Americas.
LatinAmerican Post | Joshua Radesca
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Leer en español: La viruela del mono está impactando más en las Américas
Monkeypox, also known as monkeypox or monkeypox, has in recent months concerned health experts and government officials throughout the world. Since May 2022 there has been an unprecedented global spread of this disease. For this reason, on July 23rd, 2022, the Director General of the WHO declared the mpox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (ESPII).
According to the WHO, monkeypox is a zoonotic viral infection. This means that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Likewise, it can be spread by human-to-human contact or from the environment to humans. Its most common symptoms are headache, fever, muscle aches, back pain, lack of energy, swollen lymph nodes, followed or accompanied by a skin rash. These eruptions can appear in a variable number on the face, the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, eyes, throat, and even in the genital or anal area.
Monkeypox does not subside in the American continent
It is estimated that this year, the WHO can declare the end of the state of emergency caused by monkeypox. “This is based on the current global trend that weekly cases have decreased by more than 90% since the peak in August 2022,” indicates an article from The Lancet Regional Health, a portal specialized in the publication of medical research. However, this disease is having particularities in the region of the Americas. This publication also warns that “the world panorama is not homogeneous. If we look only at the Americas, weekly cases continue to rise in several countries, and the region is the only one still considered high risk, based on WHO assessments." This indicates a clear imbalance between the current situation in the Americas against the virus, compared to the rest of the world.
According to data shared by The Lancet Regional Health, in the region, more than 57,000 cases of monkeypox were reported up to January 2023. Of the 74 confirmed deaths worldwide, 54 occurred in American countries. The region is also home to 6 of the 10 nations most affected by the virus. These are: United States, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Canada. From this list, Brazil became one of the most affected countries. Most of those infected showed up in São Paulo, the largest city on the continent.
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Prejudice and stigma surrounding monkeypox
Since the mpox outbreak occurred, it has been surrounded by some stigma and prejudice, starting with its name. Historically, this is a virus endemic to Africa, where it has circulated for several decades. “Online posts on social networks and other forums have been making racist and unacceptable comments associating the name of the disease (“a disease of monkeys”) with Africans,” says Clarissa R Damaso, a researcher at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. This has motivated the WHO to prefer the use of the term mpox over monkeypox or monkeypox. The latter will be used for one year, while the population adapts to the first term.
The data that is currently handled suggests that the majority of infections occurred through sexual contact. The most affected are men who had sex with other men (MSM). In addition, there may be a relationship with various sexually transmitted diseases. "89.7% of confirmed cases in Rio de Janeiro were reported by MSM, 53.2% were HIV positive, 21.2% had syphilis, and 33% had other STIs," the Lancet report indicates the RegionalHealth. Similar percentages are observed in other countries, such as Mexico.
This has fueled stigma about the virus, fueled by homophobic figures and groups, who have branded mpox one a "gay disease." However, these beliefs are far from reality and the only thing they do is make their driving worse. It is a virus that anyone can catch.
In Brazil, we find a fairly representative and worrying example of this. The former president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, "went to recommend in a derogatory tone that the majority of homosexuals wanted access to the monkeypox vaccine, describing this population group as the only ones susceptible to the virus, and as if homosexuality was the real problem, instead of referring to vaccination as a necessity”, indicates a scientific article published at the end of last year by researchers from the University of São Paulo.
For its part, The Lancet Regional Health explained that the "homophobic statements by then-President Bolsonaro during the worst moments of the outbreak cemented the stigmatization of the disease, and the country now has a shortage of the only nationally approved treatment (Tecovirimat) and delay in the arrival of vaccine doses.
The prejudices surrounding this virus cause many of those infected to refrain from seeking medical help or alerting those with whom they have had contact, a fact that harmed the actions of the health authorities. It is clear how the mpox outbreak has had an impact on elements that go beyond the medical field, which has had a negative effect on the fight against the virus in the region.
Prevention against monkeypox
Some basic recommendations that can be followed to avoid the spread of mpox is not to have contact with wild animals, including their blood and meat. Monkeypox particularly affects rodents and primates. Similarly, care should be taken not to come into direct contact with people with blisters or rashes that may be suspicious for monkeypox. Similarly, disinfection of surfaces and objects that have been in contact with individuals infected with the virus is recommended. If you suspect you might be infected, limit contact with others and seek immediate medical attention.