Outbreak: Monkeypox!

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Quit looking at me like that. This is not our fault. Photo: Jasmic's flickr

Scientists are concerned about a potential global threat in the wake of a new study from UCLA that shows that people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are 20 times more likely to catch monkeypox than they were in 1986. Monkeypox, a milder form of smallpox named for its discovery in laboratory monkeys, primarily infects rodents and transfers to humans when they eat infected animals. There is no cure, and it makes your skin look like this. Smallpox or its vaccine immunizes people to monkeypox, but since smallpox was declared eradicated, the number of monkeypox cases has surged. In 2003, cases of monkeypox were found in the U.S. after the virus jumped from rats in Africa to American prairie dog owners. Anne Rimoin, the lead researcher in the study, said the political strife in the DRC has made things worse, as the civil war has forced residents to rely on hunting wildlife for food, and squirrels and monkeys are some of the virus' favorite hosts. We know the name is sort of a misnomer, but, monkeys, this has not been your finest week.

Monkeypox virus cases rocket [New Scientist]
Monkeypox rising in wake of smallpox eradication [MSNBC]