Monkeypox. What's the deal?
So you're telling me that on top of COVID-19, I now have to worry about MONKEYPOX?
No. That's not what anyone is saying. BUT, you should be informed so you know what everyone is talking about and so you know when to be concerned.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus. The monkeypox virus is in the same family as the virus that causes smallpox. (Of note, chickenpox is in a different family all together- the herpesviradae family).
It is NOT a new infection. It was first discovered in the 1950s in a colony of research monkeys. Although the original source is still unknown, transmission is mainly tied to infected African rodents and other infected non-human primates (monkeys). There are two types currently of Monkeypox: one from West Africa and one from the Congo Basin (Central Africa).
If Monkeypox is primarily harbored in rodent and non-human primates in West and Central Africa, why is this an issue for the rest of the world now?
First it's important to know that one of the primary ways of transmission to humans is having direct contact with infected animals. Once a rash occurs in humans, Monkeypox spreads primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids and with international travel and imported animals, it's not hard to understand how and why we are now talking about a viral infection that historically had been limited to certain geographic areas in the world.
What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?
About 1-2 weeks after being exposed, starting symptoms of Monkeypox are pretty non-specific and can look like symptoms of a cold or even the flu. Main symptoms include:
Muscle and back aches
Swollen lymph nodes
Respiratory symptoms (sore throat, nasal congestion or cough)
The rash is a significant characteristic of Monkeypox and usually will appear shortly after the other flu-like symptoms, although that is not always the case. Sometimes the rash can occur first. The rash can look like pimples or blisters on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body like the hands, feet, chest or private areas. The rash starts as flat, red bumps, which can be painful. Those bumps turn into blisters, which fill with pus. Eventually, the blisters crust over and fall off — the whole process can last two to four weeks.
How is Monkeypox spread?
Once a human is infected, they can spread it primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, hugging, massaging, and cuddling. Monkeypox can spread through touching materials used by a person with monkeypox that haven’t been cleaned, such as clothing and bedding. It can also spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact.
Who is at risk for getting Monkeypox?
Although a disproportionate number of cases in the recent monkeypox outbreak have appeared among men who have sex with men (MSM), anyone can be affected regardless of sexual orientation, especially if you understand the way Monkeypox can spread.
Is there a test for Monkeypox?
Yes, there is a swab that can be used on a suspicious lesion for diagnosis.
Is Monkeypox fatal?
No one has died from this outbreak to date, which is related to the West Africa type of Monkeypox. Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks. Most people with monkeypox get better on their own without treatment. There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, because of genetic similarities in the viruses, antiviral drugs used to treat smallpox may be used to treat monkeypox infections.
Tell me about the Monkeypox vaccine.
The U.S. government has two stockpiled vaccines—JYNNEOS and ACAM2000—that can prevent monkeypox in people who are exposed to the virus. Vaccines may be recommended for people who have had or may have contact with someone who has monkeypox, or for healthcare and public health workers who may be exposed to the virus. For the purposes of vaccinating people more at risk of being exposed to Monkeypox, the following are identified as having a higher risk:
People who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox
People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox
People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox
People whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses, such as:
Laboratory workers who perform testing for orthopoxviruses
Laboratory workers who handle cultures or animals with orthopoxviruses
Some designated healthcare or public health workers
Where do I learn more about Monkeypox?