Human monkeypox infections occur when a person comes into contact with an infected animal or person or virus-contaminated materials such as bedding; the virus enters the body through a bite, scratch, or cut or abrasion in the skin or through the nose, mouth, or eyes. The virus is transmitted primarily by respiratory droplets, bodily fluids, or material from the lesions. Two distinct groups of monkeypox virus strains exist, Central African and West African. The latter generally results in milder cases with fewer deaths, and is not usually spread person to person.
Monkeypox was first identified in 1958 when outbreaks occurred in monkeys used for research; the disease also has been found in rodents. The first case in humans was recorded in 1970 in the Congo (Kinshasa). Monkeypox has since been reported in humans in other parts of central and W African. The only known outbreak outside Africa occurred in the United States in 2003; it was caused by a West African strain that came from small mammals imported from Ghana.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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