Seemingly riding on the coattails of SARS-CoV-2, the alarming spread of monkeypox across western Europe and the United States has filled the news cycle through the summer of 2022. Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus, similar in presentation to smallpox and chickenpox (Varicella zoster). In contrast to the related poxviruses, monkeypox has been reported to spread by sexual contact and direct skin-to-skin contact, as well as through the traditional respiratory droplet route. While there is currently no effective treatment for infected individuals, two vaccines with good efficacy are available to help stem the spread of the disease. Likewise, individuals that have been vaccinated against smallpox with vaccinia virus have some protection against contracting monkeypox. While changes in sexual behavior among vulnerable populations has so far limited the outbreak, the disease is still spreading throughout the country and has caused a handful of deaths.
What is the life cycle of monkeypox, and how exactly is it spread? What does the fact that vaccination against smallpox provides some protection against monkeypox indicate about this virus? Also, what does the spread of monkeypox reveal about the susceptibility of the population to smallpox, a disease that has been considered eradicated worldwide since the late 1980s?
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