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Monkeypox Outbreak in Mbomou, Central African Republic

January 21, 2016

At least 2 deaths have been reported and several other people quarantined in a monkeypox outbreak in the Mbomou region of southern Central African Republic (CAR). The CAR health ministry says they have the situation under control; however, they are calling for vigilance and preventive measures such as washing hands regularly and avoiding any contact with infected or dead animals and secretions of infected person and objects.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark during an investigation into a pox-like disease in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in humans in other central and western African countries. The virus was first reported in Mbomou in 2001, and in Haute Kotto in 2014. Studies of monkeypox virus suggest that there are at least 2 different genetic types (clades) of the virus. Virus clades segregate based upon geographic separation, with one type being found in West Africa and the other in Central Africa.

In 2003, the US experienced an outbreak of monkeypox from a shipment of animals from Ghana, imported to Texas. This was the first time human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa. The strain introduced into the U.S. came from West Africa. Human infections with Central African monkeypox virus are typically more severe than infections with the West African virus type.  During the 2003 U.S. monkeypox outbreak, CDC, along with the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) advised people who investigated animal or human monkeypox cases and those who had close contact with someone who was infected to get the smallpox vaccine.

Monkeypox is a relatively rare disease caused by the virus with the same name, which is found primarily in central and western Africa. It is closely related to the small pox virus but infection with monkeypox is not as serious as smallpox, nevertheless human deaths from monkeypox have been reported. There is no treatment or vaccine available although smallpox vaccination has proven to be 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.


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