For the past three years, the world has been dealing with COVID-19. Now it seems everywhere you look, there’s another disease making headlines; monkeypox. After a stressful and scary few years, it’s understandable if you’re feeling a bit worried by these recent headlines. So if you’re feeling a bit weary because of monkeypox, that’s okay! We’re going to help you understand what you need to know to protect yourself and others.
The CDC classifies monkeypox as “a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.” The monkeypox virus belongs to the same family as the virus that causes smallpox. While smallpox has severe symptoms that are often fatal if not properly treated, monkeypox has much milder symptoms and is very rarely fatal. It was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys used for research. Then in 1970, the first documented case of monkeypox was discovered in humans. In 2022, there are now reported cases of monkeypox in 87 countries across the world.
The common signs and symptoms of monkeypox are fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, rash (can be on the genitals, anus, hands, feet, face, chest, mouth).Typically, people become symptomatic within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. Many people may get a rash prior to onset of other symptoms. However, some may only develop a rash and remain asymptomatic otherwise. Overall, most people who do become infected with monkeypox will get a rash.
Monkeypox is contagious from the time of symptom onset, until the rash has healed and all scabs have healed over, which is usually 2-4 weeks.
Monkeypox can be spread through close contact, often skin-to-skin. This includes direct contact with the rash, bodily fluids, or scabs from someone with the illness. It can also be spread by coming into contact with respiratory secretions or objects/fabrics that were used by someone with monkeypox. It can be spread by sneezing or something as simple as using a hand towel that someone with the virus also used. It also can also be spread via intimate/sexual contact. The virus can also be spread to a fetus through the placenta, so pregnant women must be extra careful so as not to infect their little one.
While the number of cases is rising, preventing monkeypox is doable. Avoid sharing objects or having sexual and personal/skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. It is also recommended to wash your hands frequently much like we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 epidemic.
Per CDC recommendations, vaccines are recommended for patients who have been exposed to the illness, and those more likely to contract the disease, inlcuding those with multiple sexual partners in an area known to have monkeypox.
Currently, there are no specific treatments for the monkeypox virus. Tecovirimat, an antiviral, can be recommended for immunocompromised patients who are at risk of serious health complications. If you notice that you have monkeypox symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately.
As if worrying about COVID-19 weren’t enough, life had to throw us another curveball with monkeypox. Now that you know a little more about this virus and how it affects humans, you should feel more informed about what to do if you think you or someone you know might be infected with monkeypox. For more information regarding monkeypox, you can stay up to date by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html
Data Source: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html