What Is Monkeypox Virus That Is Spreading in Europe, US

What Is Monkeypox Virus That Is Spreading in Europe, US
A monkeypox virion, obtained from a clinical sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak, in an electron microscopic (EM) image. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith/CDC)

Monkeypox was first discovered in the late 1950s after cropping up among monkeys kept for research. Like smallpox and chickenpox, it is characterized by flu-like symptoms and pus-filled blisters and sores that appear on the skin.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox also disappeared for decades with smallpox’s eradication in 1980.

But the virus reemerged in Nigeria in 2017, and the country has since seen at least 450 cases since then, with at least eight cases reported internationally.

The CDC noted that the virus appears to primarily occur in men who have sex with other men.

“Many of these global reports of monkeypox cases are occurring within sexual networks,” CDC director of high-consequence pathogens Inger Damon said. “However, healthcare providers should be alert to any rash that has features typical of monkeypox. We’re asking the public to contact their healthcare provider if they have a new rash and are concerned about monkeypox.”

A handful of monkeypox cases have now been reported or are suspected in Britain, Portugal, Spain, and the United States.

Copenhagen-based drugmaker Bavarian Nordic said it had secured a contract with an undisclosed European country to supply its smallpox vaccine, Imvanex, in response to the monkeypox outbreak.

Britain said it would offer a smallpox vaccine to some healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed, as a handful more cases were confirmed in parts of Europe.

Bavarian Nordic has inked a deal with BARDA to supply a freeze-dried version of the Jynneos smallpox vaccine, allowing for the first doses to be manufactured and invoiced in 2023 and 2024.

The options have a $119 million price tag and represent the first options exercised to convert bulk vaccines into freeze-dried doses of smallpox vaccine.

By Vandana Singh