Monkeypox is caused by a virus from the Poxviridae family. This same family of viruses is what causes pox diseases in humans as well. Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease because it can be transmitted from animals to humans.
What animals are most commonly associated with monkeypox?
Monkeypox is mostly present in Africa. Wild rodents such as squirrels or rats act as reservoirs for the virus. Great apes, monkeys, and humans can be contaminated if they come into contact with or ingest these rodents. Infected people can then transmit the virus to other humans through prolonged close contact (by inhaling infected droplets), or direct contact with skin lesions or infected body fluids.
Have there been monkeypox outbreaks before?
The current monkeypox outbreak is certainly the most widespread, but it’s not the first. Several pandemics have occurred in Africa since the 1970’s. The most recent took place in Nigeria in 2017.
In 2003, an outbreak emerged in the United States. Rodents from Ghana infected prairie dogs that were being kept in a pet store. Once bought, these prairie dogs then infected their human owners. This is EXACTLY why the exotic pet trade is so dangerous.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Human symptoms of monkeypox include fever and chicken box-like skin reactions. Sometimes, other symptoms such as coughing or diarrhoea can also appear.
Thankfully, the smallpox vaccine is efficient in protecting humans from monkeypox.
Can cats and dogs get monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted to humans from wild rodents or primates. Human to human transmission is then possible, but so far, no cases of monkeypox have been reported in cats or dogs.
Nor have they been reported in domesticated rodents such as rabbits. Cases have been reported in wild rodents such as prairie dogs, however, so just to be on the safe side, you shouldn’t purchase any at this time. In addition, If you are infected with monkeypox, you should avoid contact with all kinds of rodents as they can catch it and carry it.
You shouldn’t try to own exotic pets unless you have a license, significant experience, and the time and means to care for such animals. It is particularly important that you do not support the illegal wildlife trade.
With globalisation, we are entering an era in which viruses will be more prevalent and spread faster. It’s important to keep the good habits we took on during the Coronavirus pandemic to keep ourselves, others, and animals safe.
Written by: Veterinarian Dr. Isabelle Vixege
Translated by: Justine Seraphin