After two long years of Covid-19, monkeypox is the latest viral disease to hit headlines.
A type of Pox virus, monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox – though its bumpy rash, fever, chills and other symptoms are sometimes confused for the highly contagious (yet unrelated) chickenpox.
The UK has 78 recorded cases of people having monkeypox at the time of writing – with officials springing into action to isolate the individuals’ close contacts.
But one stone does indeed remain unturned… why is it called monkeypox? And is it connected to actual monkeys?
Here’s what you should know.
Why is monkeypox called monkeypox?
Monkeypox’s name does indeed have something to do with monkeys.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, when there were two outbreaks among a group of monkeys.
These monkeys were being kept specifically for animal research purposes.
Humans did not contract monkeypox until 1970, when the first recorded case appeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
However, it’s important to note that monkeys aren’t necessarily the cause of all monkeypox outbreaks – as the NHS writes that it is often thought to be caused by rodents.
Its website states: ‘Monkeypox can be caught from infected wild animals in parts of west and central Africa. It’s thought to be spread by rodents, such as rats, mice and squirrels.
‘You can catch monkeypox from an infected animal if you’re bitten or you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs.
‘It may also be possible to catch monkeypox by eating meat from an infected animal that has not been cooked thoroughly, or by touching other products from infected animals (such as animal skin or fur).’
This is pretty clear-cut compared to similarly-named virus, chickenpox, as its the reason for its animal-themed moniker is currently unknown – though there are several theories.
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