The World Health Organization declared the 2022 monkeypox outbreak a public health crisis. Here’s what you should know about the virus.
The monkeypox virus is a viral zoonosis. That means it can spread through contact with certain animals and humans.
It’s related to the variola virus, which causes smallpox. Monkeypox is not as dangerous as smallpox and is rarely fatal. It is not related to chickenpox.
Scientists first discovered the virus in 1958, when research monkeys developed it. Different types of rodents and mammals can spread the virus, and its origin is still unknown.
The first human case report happened in 1970 in Africa. Most cases were in Africa and the virus wasn’t often spread abroad until the recent outbreak.
Research suggests the virus mutated, explaining the current spread.
In September, monkeypox is in over 100 counties, including 97 new countries. Several cases are now in the United States.
There are over 60,000 reported cases worldwide and 20 reported deaths. Most cases are in men aged 20 to 50, but anyone can get the virus.
Monkeypox signs and symptoms are like smallpox but milder.
The most well-known symptom is a rash that can develop anywhere on the body. The genitals, face, mouth, hands, feet and chest are common locations.
At first, the rash can look like pimples or blisters. It may be painful or itchy and will go through stages before scab over and healing.
There are several other symptoms, including:
Some people experience more symptoms than others. Symptoms starting within three weeks of exposure. The illness typically lasts from two to four weeks.
If you have symptoms after exposure, wear a mask and seek out a healthcare professional.
It’s true most cases are in men who have sex with other men. However, monkeypox is NOT a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Anyone can get the virus through close contact with an infectious person.
You were in close contact with an infectious person if you:
You are unlikely to get the virus out in public without close contact with an infected individual or their belongings.
If you came in contact with monkeypox and have no symptoms, you can go about your daily routine. Just be watchful for any developing symptoms.
As soon as you experience symptoms, socially distance and visit a healthcare provider. They can test you for monkeypox once you develop a rash. The current test requires swabbing the lesions. It’s still important to see a doctor if you have any symptoms after exposure.
In the majority of cases, no treatment is necessary. There are options for immunocompromised or vulnerable populations.
There’s no specific monkeypox treatment out yet. Since the viruses are closely related, doctors can prescribe smallpox antivirals used to treat severe or risky cases. These treatments include the antiviral drug tecovirimat (TPOXX).
Wash your hands often, safe sex and avoid infectious individuals to prevent the virus.
There are two vaccines approved for the prevention of monkeypox. The most common is the JYNNEOS vaccine, with the ACAM2000 also used. Both protect against both smallpox and monkeypox.
If you are at high risk of monkeypox, consult a healthcare provider about vaccination.
It’s important to be aware of monkeypox. A non-vulnerable person shouldn’t fear getting the virus just by being out and about.
The virus spreads through close contact with an infectious person. It usually presents with mild symptoms that are gone within a few weeks. You can prevent the virus by taking the right precautions, and listening to the latest information.
Contact your healthcare provider if you suspect you have monkeypox or have concerns about exposure.