Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which is usually found in parts of Central and West Africa—particularly in areas where there is tropical rainforest. But where does this disease get its name?
The monkeypox virus belongs to the same family as the pathogen that causes smallpox—one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity that resulted in millions of deaths before a successful global vaccination campaign helped to eradicate it.
Monkeypox is less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness, according to the World Health Organization, although in a small proportion of cases it can result in serious disease. It’s zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans.
The monkeypox virus is found in several wild animals, such as rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice and non-human primates, among other species.