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The History of Monkeypox Outbreaks and Cases

The History of Monkeypox Outbreaks and Cases

It was first confirmed in May 2022 that a multi-country Monkeypox outbreak is ongoing. Despite the recent and unexpected spread, this disease is not new. The history of Monkeypox outbreaks goes back about half a century.

In this article, we shall discuss the history of Monkeypox outbreaks and past cases in detail.

To understand the virus better, read our article ‘What is Monkeypox? A General Description‘.

To have a comprehensive understanding, read our ‘Monkeypox FAQ‘.

A Brief History of the Origin of Monkeypox

Copenhagen, Denmark, 1958- A pharmaceutical laboratory has just imported some monkeys from the Central African region. In a few days, they begin to show signs of fever and fatigue.

At first, no one pays much attention. The lab scientists thought it was because of the weather change. However, within a week, the fever increases, and the monkeys start to show skin lesions.

“This must be a pox for monkeys”, the scientists think. However, since they needed the monkeys healthy for whatever animal testing they imported them for, healing them became important. They trace the virus to a Central African rodent, the pouched rat.

At that time, no human infection was reported and the data remained only among the few in the scientific community.

The First Monkeypox Case of 1970

Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo), 1970- The first case of Monkeypox was detected in an adult male in the town of Basankusu in the province of Equateur. This leap from animals to humans for a germ is called Zoonosis.

Exipure 1

The symptoms were similar to Smallpox. The virus was identified and classified as an Orthopoxvirus (In the family of Smallpox) and the patient was treated the same way. No alarms were raised at that time since scientists found out that the vaccine for Smallpox also worked for Monkeypox.

At that time, the World Health Organization (WHO) was conducting a Smallpox vaccination program in that region, and so it was understood, that the vaccine will eradicate the virus just as it did for Smallpox.

At the end of 1980, WHO stopped the vaccination as it was thought that Smallpox was completely eradicated and the vaccine had some undesirable side effects. But soon, the first Monkeypox outbreak was reported.

The First Monkeypox Outbreak of 1980

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), end of 1980- WHO surveillance kept an eye on the reemergence of Smallpox, but found this new threat. 338 cases of Monkeypox were recorded from 1981-1986. It was the first reported as a Monkeypox outbreak. 30 people died.

It turned out that the Smallpox vaccine provided 85% protection against the Monkeypox virus. And since they stopped the vaccination in the region, a lot of the new generation didn’t have the antibody to resist the virus.

Monkeypox became classified as an endemic (A disease that remains a constant in a particular region), and human-to-human transmission was not detected at that time.

The Second Outbreak of 1996

Katako-Kombe, Akungula, DRC, 1996- A home-to-home active case search was initiated by WHO and in the Katako-Kombe region, 92 cases were found. Of them, 55 were males over 17 years of age.

In the Akungula village, the researcher saw the highest attack rate (11%), and human-to-human transmission was first detected. 45 cases were found in that village alone.

Of the 92 cases, 15 had had vaccination (vaccinia) for Smallpox. 3 died within 3 weeks. All of them were babies under the age of 3.

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The United States Outbreak of 2003

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, 2003- A young child began to show symptoms and was later diagnosed to have Monkeypox after being bitten by a prairie dog. It turned out that the family bought the animal at a local flea market from a Texas-based exotic animal distributor. He also happened to have several Gambian pouched rats.

Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
Black-Tailed Prairie Dog
Gambian Pouched Rat
Gambian Pouched Rat

The outbreak was then contained by June 20, 2003, and CDC was able to isolate 71 people in Wisconsin. Human-to-human transmission is now fairly certain.

The Nigerian Outbreak of 2017

Nigeria, 2017- Nigeria had its share of Monkeypox cases. From 1971-1978, there were sporadic cases, and only 10 confirmed cases were identified. However, in the September of 1917, the infection was widespread.

From 1917-1918, 118 cases were isolated by the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC). Researchers were able to identify a tiny mutation in the virus as it was readily transmittable from one human to another.

A total of 7 died. Of them, one was an infant and 4 were HIV/AIDS patients. A pregnant mother also reported a miscarriage after being infected.

According to the Niger Delta University, a good amount of the young adults who incurred Monkeypox had genitalia ulcers, syphilis, and AIDS.

A recent report published in May 2022 by the Nigerian Government tells us that since 2017, there have been 558 confirmed cases and 8 deaths in all 32 federal states.

The United Kingdom Cases of 2018

South West England, UK, 2018- A Nigerian national traveled from Nigeria to the UK and was staying at the Cornwall Naval base when he came down with a fever. 3 days later the fever intensified and he was moved to the Royal Free Hospital.

There, he was diagnosed with the Monkeypox virus and was isolated to the infectious disease wing.

3 more cases were then found. One at the end of 2018 and two… at the beginning of 2019. One of the three was a health worker treating a victim. The other two traveled from Nigeria to the UK.

The Singapore Case of 2019

Singapore, 2019- Singapore National Center for Infectious Disease identified and isolated a 38-year-old male who had just arrived from Nigeria. 22 people were then quarantined, but no transmission was detected.

The United Kingdom and the United States Cases of 2021

24 May 2021- 3 members of a family were confirmed to have been infected. Patient zero, in this case, had just been to Nigeria.

14 July 2021- An American citizen with a travel history to Nigeria was diagnosed and isolated. He was treated with Tecovirimat for 32 days and was discharged from the hospital.

The Monkeypox Outbreak of 2022

Please check our update page for the latest updates.

May 2022- A Monkeypox outbreak is on the way. It is being reported from almost all over the world. WHO has declared it a health emergency and is doing everything to bring awareness to people.

The first case was detected in the UK in an individual with a travel history to Nigeria. After that, 80 countries have reported confirmed cases of Monkeypox. As of August 2, 2022, 25,436 cases were confirmed all over the world.

We’ll continue to inform you on our update page.

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