Monkeypox is a rare, but potentially serious illness caused by the monkeypox virus belonging to the same family of viruses as smallpox. Although similar in comparison to the smallpox virus, monkeypox symptoms are less severe, less transmissible, and rarely fatal. Those with a higher risk for severe disease and death include:
- Those with a weakened immune system
- Those pregnant or breastfeeding
- Those with eczema
- Children under the age of 8 years
Anyone can get and transmit monkeypox. While data from the CDC identify that there are populations at a higher risk of developing and transmitting monkeypox, viruses do not recognize any gender identity or sexual orientation. Because monkeypox is spread through close intimate contact, people who have multiple or unknown sex partners are also at high risk.
Monkeypox is contagious and can spread from the time symptoms begin until the rash has completely healed and a new layer of skin has formed. This can take anywhere from two to four weeks. The incubation period, time from exposure to symptoms presenting, can range from 5-21 days with most persons presenting between 6-13 days.
According to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Monkeypox can spread from person to person through:
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids of an infected person
- Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
The primary symptom of Monkeypox is a rash located anywhere on the body including the genitals, anus, hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. This rash will be staged beginning with painful, itchy, pimple-like blisters which will open and scab before healing. Some people only develop a rash while others may have other symptoms either following the rash or followed by the rash. Other symptoms of Monkeypox include:
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, nasal congestion, sore throat)
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Monkeypox cannot be spread to others by persons who have no symptoms.
Monkeypox can be prevented by:
- Avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with persons who have a rash that resembles Monkeypox or has been directly exposed to someone with Monkeypox
- Avoid contact with objects or materials including the bedding that a person who is positive for Monkeypox has used
- Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Currently, there is no specific treatment for the monkeypox virus however, because monkeypox and smallpox are genetically similar, antiviral medications such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be used to treat the virus. Vaccines to protect against monkeypox are also being used in the prevention of the disease in those who have been found to be at risk including:
- People who have been identified by public health officials as a contact with someone with monkeypox
- People who know one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks have been diagnosed with monkeypox
- People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox
If you have been exposed to monkeypox or are at a higher risk of contracting the disease, consult your healthcare provider or local health department to see if you should get vaccinated against monkeypox.
Learn more by visiting the CDC Monkeypox website