South Africans are on high alert after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed the country’s first case of monkeypox involving a 30-year-old man from Gauteng in June. While monkeypox affects human beings and certain wild animals, it is not known whether domestic animals and livestock can harbour the disease.
In a statement released recently, animal health company Afrivet confirmed that there are no documented cases of monkeypox in domestic animals, which includes animals like cattle, goats, or sheep. They also highlighted that no cases have been found where infected human beings have transmitted monkeypox to other animals.
“Certain wild mammals are in fact susceptible to the monkeypox virus. This includes rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, and non-human primates among others. Thus far, the WOAH (World Organisation of Animal Health) has not received any reports of livestock infection or any evidence that domestic animals can be affected by the virus,” the statement reads.
Monkeypox is a rare disease from the same family as smallpox, though less severe, and can be transferred by infected animals to humans and other susceptible animals through close contact. Close contact includes bites, scratches, and direct contact with the infected animal’s bodily fluids.
“Even though natural transmission from animals to humans has been reported in the past, in the current outbreak, there is no evidence of animal to human or human to animal transmission. Furthermore, there is no evidence that monkeypox has an impact on the health of domestic animals.”
Be on the lookout for these symptoms
While domestic animals seem to be safe from the virus, human infection could potentially pose a threat to farming operations. It is thus important to know what symptoms to look out for.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists the following symptoms to be aware of:
- Fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy (swelling of the lymph nodes), back pain, myalgia (muscle aches), and intense asthenia (lack of energy). Lymphadenopathy is a distinctive feature of monkeypox compared to other diseases that may initially appear similar (chickenpox, measles, smallpox).
- A skin eruption that usually begins within three days of the appearance of fever. The rash tends to be more concentrated on the face and extremities rather than on the trunk, but can appear on the rest of the body as well. The rash evolves from macules (lesions with a flat base) to papules (slightly raised firm lesions), vesicles (lesions filled with clear fluid), pustules (lesions filled with yellowish fluid), and crusts that dry up and fall off.
The WHO also confirms that symptoms last for up to four weeks, and tend to be more severe amongst children.
Symptoms in susceptible animals
In animals susceptible to the disease, Afrivet highlights the following as symptoms animal health professionals need to look out for:
- Increase in body temperature
- Appetite changes
- Conjunctivitis and/or ocular discharge
- Coughing or sneezing
- Abnormal sounds during auscultation of the lungs
- Skin lesions with or without pruritus
- Palpable lymph nodes
They recommend that, where there is a potential infection risk, certain preventative measures be put in place. This includes safely disposing of any medical and other waste and making sure it is inaccessible to rodents and other scavenger animals, avoiding contact with all animals, including domestic ones, if you have monkeypox or suspect you do, washing your hands after contact with wild animals, and avoiding contact with animals susceptible to the disease.
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