Monkeypox 101: What You Need to Know About the New Virus in the News


HHER Answers Your Questions About the Rare Virus Called Monkeypox Currently Making Headlines

You may have heard about a rare disease called monkeypox making headlines due to an unusual outbreak of cases in Europe and North America. With the turmoil of Covid-19 fresh in everyone’s mind, it’s natural to have questions and concerns about monkeypox. What is monkeypox, and how worried do you have to be about it? Will monkeypox put your family at risk to the degree that Covid-19 did? Will we have to endure another quarantine? 

To alleviate some of your concerns about monkeypox, HHER compiled answers to your most frequently asked questions. Read on to find out why monkeypox likely won’t cause disruptions on the scale of Covid-19 and how to protect yourself and your family from monkeypox.

Is Monkeypox Another Covid-19?

Since we’re on our collective last nerve with news of outbreaks of rare viruses, we will lead with the good news: the risk of contracting monkeypox is low at present, and the strain that is spreading is mild. There is currently no reason to believe that monkeypox presents the same kind of risk as Covid-19. Monkeypox is a milder, less easily transmissible disease than Covid, and monkeypox is not a new virus. Unlike Covid-19, monkeypox is a virus that has been known and studied for years and does not have a history of spreading asymptomatically.

What Is Monkeypox?  

Monkeypox is a rare disease that comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox, but monkeypox is less contagious and less severe. A self-limited disease, monkeypox usually resolves on its own within 2-4 weeks with or without treatment. Healthy children and adults tend not to become severely ill. However, severe cases do exist, and according to the World Health Organization, the case fatality of monkeypox hovers around 3 to 6 percent.

Is There a Monkeypox Vaccine?

A monkeypox vaccine is available, but monkeypox vaccines are not in wide distribution. Currently, the CDC recommends only getting the monkeypox vaccine if you are a close contact of a confirmed case. Otherwise, the risk to the general population remains low.

Because monkeypox is so closely related to smallpox, the smallpox vaccine may actually provide protection against monkeypox. If you received a smallpox vaccine before routine vaccination ended in 1972, you may have some immunity against monkeypox.

Where Is Monkeypox Found?

Monkeypox is endemic in the tropical rainforests of West and Central Africa, meaning it is continually present in that region. The milder strain of monkeypox from West Africa is the strain currently making headlines.

Is Monkeypox a New Disease?

Monkeypox is not a new disease, and it has been detected outside of the endemic region of West and Central Africa before. Since first being diagnosed in people in 1970, monkeypox has from time to time emerged in individual cases worldwide in people who picked up the disease through international travel or contact with imported animals. 

Why Is Monkeypox Newsworthy Now?

The 2022 outbreak of monkeypox detected in Europe and North America is unusual because it involves broader transmission among people without a history of travel to the part of the world where it is endemic.

How Is Monkeypox Transmitted?

People pick up monkeypox through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with monkeypox such as an infected person’s bedding. The standard for “close contact” for monkeypox is different from the standard for Covid-19, however. To catch monkeypox you need close contact with an infected person’s lesions, bodily fluid, or large respiratory droplets.

What Are the Symptoms of Monkeypox?

Monkeypox starts off with flu-like symptoms followed by a distinctive rash. If you would like to see a picture, you can find one on the CDC site here.

Distinctive Symptoms of Monkeypox:

  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Fever
  • Distinctive rash

Monkeypox symptoms begin to appear following an incubation period of a week or two, with the onset of fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. A few days after the onset of fever, monkeypox symptoms begin to differentiate themselves from the flu with a rash. In many cases, the rash associated with monkeypox symptoms begins on the face and then spreads. The rash develops fluid-filled pustules on the legions before finally scabbing. 

For How Long Can People With Monkeypox Spread the Virus?

People infected with monkeypox are infectious from the onset of symptoms until the scabs fall off.

How Contagious Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is not easily transmissible from person to person. Usually monkeypox is transmitted through contact with body fluids through contact with a contaminated animal, human, or object. Monkeypox enters the body through mucus membranes, broken skin, the respiratory tract, and it can also be sexually transmitted.

How Can I Prevent Monkeypox?

If there’s a good thing about monkeypox, it’s that all of the Covid precautions we’ve grown used to can also help protect you from monkeypox. Though the current risk of catching monkeypox is low, wash your hands frequently. You can stay safe by wearing a mask when you’re in a crowd and avoiding close contact with people who have open sores or rashes. 

What Do I Do if I’m Exposed to Monkeypox or Have Symptoms of Monkeypox?

If you are exposed to monkeypox, self-isolate and contact your local health department for further guidance. 

Monkeypox Treatment

There is no specific course of treatment for monkeypox, though antivirals can be used to treat severe cases.  Monkeypox is self-limiting, with cases lasting between two to four weeks.

Where Can I Get More Information About Monkeypox?

Stay up to date on monkeypox at the CDC website. 

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