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The History of Monkeypox

In 2022, human outbreaks of monkeypox occurred in several non-endemic countries worldwide. To understand the unusual nature of the current outbreak, we need to have a good understanding of the history of monkeypox. Creative Biolabs is a world-leading biotechnology company that specializes in anti-monkeypox drug discovery and has comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of monkeypox.


The history of monkeypox is relatively recent. It was first discovered in monkeys in 1958. And it was found in later studies that the monkeypox virus (MPXV) actually persisted in African rodents. The first human case of monkeypox was not discovered in Africa until 1970.

Since 1970, there have been several outbreaks of monkeypox, most of which have occurred in western and central Africa. For example, in 1996-1997, a higher-than-usual outbreak was reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and larger outbreaks of monkeypox in Nigeria have occurred since 2017. The first outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa occurred in the United States and was primarily associated with the infection of imported pet groundhogs.

The History of Monkeypox from 1970 to 2022

Year Endemic Countries Overview
1970~1980 Congo
Sierra Leone
Côte d'Ivoire
Human monkeypox infections emerged shortly after cases of smallpox disappeared. During this decade, a few to a dozen cases were reported each year, all in tropical rainforest areas and concentrated in certain villages where wild animals are hunted. At that time, human monkeypox was not considered a serious public health problem.
1981~1986 Countries in the west and central African Outbreaks were associated with outdoor activities in agriculture and hunting, including infection from contact with monkeys and infection by direct physical contact. Human monkeypox was not considered to be a serious health problem at that time.
1987~1995 Countries in the west and central African Decreased attention to monkeypox.
1996-1997 Congo This outbreak has seen a significant increase in cases compared to the 1980s, but the rate of death from this disease is much lower.
2003 USA The first outbreak outside of Africa was associated with infected imported pet groundhogs. All outbreaks of human monkeypox in the United States have been animal-to-human, with no human-to-human transmission. This outbreak demonstrates the ability of this zoonotic disease to adapt to new ecological environments.
2017 Nigeria From 2003 to 2017, there were no outbreaks of human monkeypox in countries or regions outside Africa. In 2017, the most severe outbreak of human monkeypox in West Africa up to that time occurred in Nigeria, and the outbreak has not been interrupted to date. Reports of monkeypox being brought out of Africa by humans, imported from Nigeria, emerged in 2018.
2022 Endemic countries Human monkeypox cases were reported in countries in the central, northwestern, and southwestern regions of Africa, including seven endemic African countries.
Non-endemic countries Cases of human monkeypox have been reported in several non-endemic countries, including the UK, USA, etc., where the identified strains belong to the West African branch. And it has been found that there are signs of microevolution within the outbreak strain population.

Creative Biolabs, as a leading monkeypox CRO, is dedicated to the research of MPXV. If you are interested in monkeypox related products and research services, you can contact us for support. Our professional team provides expertise and research support for your monkeypox research.


  1. Yao K H. Learning from the past: the history of human monkeypox and the atypical multi-country outbreak in 2022. Chinese Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics, 2022;24(7):717-727.

We DO NOT PROVIDE ANY PRODUCTS OR SERVICES DIRECTLY TO PATIENTS. All of our products are for Research Use Only (RUO), NOT intended for diagnostic, therapeutic, or clinical use.