Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus that is similar to smallpox. It is mostly found in Africa, but it has been seen in other parts of the world as well. It causes flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, as well as a rash that can last for weeks. Monkeypox has no proven treatment, but it usually goes away on its own.
What is monkeypox?
The monkeypox virus causes the rare disease monkeypox. It causes a rash as well as flu-like symptoms. It is a member of the orthopoxvirus family, like the more well-known virus that causes smallpox.
Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 after two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in research groups of monkeys. It is primarily transmitted through human contact with infected rodents, but it can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Monkeypox virus has two known types (clades): one that originated in Central Africa and one that originated in West Africa. The less severe West African clade is responsible for the current global outbreak (2022).
Who is affected by the monkeypox?
Monkeypox can affect anyone. The majority of cases in Africa are among children under the age of 15. Outside of Africa, the disease appears to be more common in men who have sex with men, but there have been numerous cases in people who do not fit that description.
Where else can you find monkeypox?
Monkeypox was mostly seen in Africa for decades. It is, however, found in other countries, including the United States. The first outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa occurred in the United States in the spring of 2003. Texas received a shipment of infected animals from Ghana. The virus was spread by infected rodents to pet prairie dogs, who then infected 47 people in the Midwest.
As international travel becomes more common, viruses that were once confined to specific areas can more easily spread throughout the world. A case of monkeypox was discovered in a U.S. resident who had travelled from Nigeria to the United States in the summer of 2021. Then, in 2022, outbreaks spread to regions other than Africa, including Europe, the Americas, and Australia.
How common is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is uncommon. However, the number of cases is increasing in Africa, as well as in previously uninfected areas.
What are the symptoms and signs of monkeypox?
It may take several days to a few weeks after exposure to develop symptoms. Early symptoms of monkeypox include flu-like symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
A rash usually appears after a few days. The rash begins with flat, red bumps that can be painful. These bumps develop into blisters that fill with pus. The blisters eventually crust over and fall off; the entire process can take two to four weeks. Sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus are also possible.
Not everyone who has monkeypox experiences all of the symptoms. In fact, many cases in the current (2022) outbreak are not following the typical pattern of symptoms. This unusual presentation includes only a few lesions, no swollen lymph nodes, a lower fever, and fewer other symptoms of illness. You can have it and be unaware of it. Even if you don’t show many symptoms of infection, you can still infect others through prolonged close contact.
How do you catch monkeypox?
Monkeypox is transmitted when you come into contact with an infected animal or person. Animal-to-person transmission occurs through broken skin, such as from bites or scratches, or through direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or pox lesions of an infected animal (sores).
Monkeypox can be transmitted from person to person, but it is uncommon. Person-to-person spread (transmission) occurs when you come into contact with an infected person’s sores, scabs, respiratory droplets, or oral fluids, typically through close, intimate situations such as cuddling, kissing, or sex. Researchers are still investigating whether the virus is transmitted through sperm or vaginal fluids.
Monkeypox can also be contracted through contact with recently contaminated materials such as clothing, bedding, and other linens worn by an infected person or animal.
Is monkeypox curable?
Monkeypox is a self-limiting disease that typically lasts two to four weeks. The majority of people with monkeypox recover without treatment. Following a diagnosis, your healthcare provider will monitor your condition, try to relieve your symptoms, prevent dehydration, and prescribe antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections that develop.
There is no approved antiviral treatment for monkeypox at the moment. Antiviral medications may be beneficial, but they have not been studied as a treatment for monkeypox. There are several investigational antivirals with anti-monkeypox activity available, but only as part of a research study.
How is monkeypox diagnosed?
Because monkeypox is uncommon, your doctor may first suspect measles or chickenpox. Swollen lymph nodes, on the other hand, distinguish monkeypox from other poxes.
To diagnose monkeypox, your doctor will take a tissue sample from an open sore (lesion). They then send it to a lab for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing (genetic fingerprinting). You may also be asked to provide a blood sample to test for the monkeypox virus or antibodies produced by your immune system.
How do you prevent the monkeypox virus?
A smallpox vaccine protects against monkeypox, but it is currently only used in clinical trials. Prevention relies on reducing human contact with infected animals and limiting person-to-person transmission. The most effective way to help prevent the spread of the monkeypox virus is to:
*Avoid coming into contact with infected animals (especially sick or dead animals).
*Avoid coming into contact with contaminated bedding and other materials.
*Cook all foods containing animal meat or parts thoroughly.
*Hands should be washed frequently with soap and water.
*Avoid contact with people who may have the virus.
*Make use of condoms and dental dams when having sex.
*When you’re around other people, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose.
*Surfaces that are frequently touched should be cleaned and disinfected.
How should I look after myself?
Over-the-counter medications that can help you feel better if you have monkeypox symptoms include:
*Fever reducers and pain relievers Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) are two medications that can help you feel better.
*Baths with oatmeal. A warm bath with colloidal oatmeal can help relieve the dry, itchy feeling associated with skin rashes.
*If you are infected, isolate yourself. Contact with others should be avoided until all of your lesions have scabbed.
*Cover individual or localized lesions. To limit the spread to others and the environment, use gauze or bandages.
*Take good care of yourself. When you’re sick, it’s critical to stay at home and rest, wear a mask around others, and drink plenty of fluids.
*Avoid contact with animals (especially rodents).
When should I see my healthcare provider?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider:
*Feeling unwell with a fever, aches, or swollen lymph nodes?
*Have you developed a new rash or sores?
*Have had direct contact with an infected person.
How long does monkeypox last?
Monkeypox normally takes about two to four weeks to run its course. If you are exposed to monkeypox, your provider will monitor you until the rash resolves.
What is the difference? Monkeypox vs. chickenpox.
Monkeypox and chickenpox are caused by different viruses, despite the fact that they both cause skin rashes. Monkeypox is caused by an orthopox virus, whereas chickenpox is caused by a herpes virus. Both viruses can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact or prolonged face-to-face contact, but chickenpox is more contagious and spreads more easily than monkeypox. Swollen lymph nodes are more common in monkeypox patients than in chickenpox patients.
The rashes also behave differently. While the chickenpox rash appears in waves, monkeypox sores appear all at once. Chickenpox symptoms, including the rash, usually resolve within two weeks, whereas monkeypox symptoms take two to four weeks to resolve.
What is the difference? Monkeypox vs. smallpox.
Because smallpox and monkeypox are both members of the orthopoxvirus family, they are caused by viruses that are similar but distinct. Smallpox was eradicated (no longer a circulating disease) by 1980, thanks to effective vaccines. Smallpox was far more contagious and spread faster than monkeypox. The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but less severe than those of smallpox.