(NEXSTAR) – Monkeypox may be the newest global outbreak concern, but the virus itself is nothing new. It was first discovered over 50 years ago in a group of captive primates – hence the name “monkeypox.”
In 1958 there were two outbreaks of the virus in monkey colonies that were being researched, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It wasn’t until 1970 that the first human case of monkeypox was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, writes the CDC.
Even though the virus has been around a long time, it has not been eradicated. Because animals continue to harbor the virus, it is endemic in several parts of Africa.
Since the 1970s most human cases have been in central and west Africa and outbreaks have been relatively limited. The WHO estimates there are thousands of monkeypox infections in about a dozen African countries every year. Most are in Congo, which reports about 6,000 cases annually, and Nigeria, with about 3,000 cases a year.