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Smallpox-Like Disease Spreading in Africa

There is a growing epidemic of monkeypox—a close cousin to smallpox—in Africa during the past two years. More than 1,000 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed among people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 2016, followed by 88 confirmed cases in the Republic of the Congo, over 80 cases in Nigeria, 19 in the Central African Republic, 16 in Cameroon, two in Liberia, and one in Sierra Leone.1 2 3 4 5

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the monkeypox virus is a rare “viral zoonosis,” which means that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Like smallpox, monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus and symptoms are similar to those of smallpox, although milder. Monkeypox can be fatal in 1-10 percent of cases, while smallpox can be fatal in three out of 10 cases.6

The incubation period for monkeypox disease—from the time of infection to the onset of symptoms—is usually from six to 16 days but has also been known to range from five to 21 days.7

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