What is Monkeypox?

What is monkeypox?

According to the CDC, monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. The monkeypox virus is similar to the variola virus, which causes smallpox. Most people who get monkeypox recover completely. (1)

Monkeypox isn’t a new disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the first recorded outbreak of monkeypox occurred in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The majority of monkeypox cases have been in Africa. (2)

What animals carry monkeypox?

The virus that causes monkeypox is found in several animal species, including rodents and primates. It’s believed that humans can get monkeypox from contact with an infected animal, such as a monkey, rat, mouse, squirrel, or prairie dog. (3)

How is monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox is spread through contact with the body fluids of an infected animal, such as blood, urine, or feces. It can also be spread through contact with an infected person, such as through coughing, sneezing, or touching open sores. The virus can also be spread through contact with contaminated bedding or clothing. (4)

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incubation period of monkeypox (the time from infection to onset of symptoms) is usually 7-14 days but can also range from 5−21 days. (5)

The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those of smallpox. They include skin rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. It progresses from flat lesions to pus-filled blisters and then to scabs. The good news is that most people usually recover fully from monkeypox in two to four weeks. (6, 7)

What is the treatment for monkeypox?

According to the CDC, there is no specific treatment for monkeypox. (8)

But, there are some things that can be done to ease the symptoms. These include:

  • Taking pain relievers for fever and pain
  • Getting rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Use a cool, damp cloth to relieve itching from the rash 

Keep in mind monkeypox can spread easily from person to person, so it’s important to isolate yourself if you think you have it.

Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

Yes. There is a smallpox vaccine that can help protect people from monkeypox. CDC recommends that people who have been exposed to monkeypox be vaccinated within 4 days of exposure. (9)

In particular, the Imvamune vaccine, also known as Imvanex, is licensed in the United States to protect against monkeypox and small. (10)

How can monkeypox be prevented?

There are a few things that you can do to avoid catching monkeypox. (11)

These include:

  • Avoiding contact with animals that could be infected with the virus, such as monkeys, rodents, and prairie dogs
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoiding contact with people who are sick
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Wearing gloves, a mask, or other personal protective equipment when around people who are sick
  • Disinfecting surfaces that could be contaminated with the virus
  • Get vaccinated against smallpox

The bottom line

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is similar to human smallpox. It’s spread through contact with an infected animal or person. The symptoms include skin rash, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Most people recover fully within two to four weeks. There is no specific treatment for monkeypox, but there are some things that can be done to ease the symptoms. 

Prevention is key and can be achieved by avoiding contact with animals or people who are sick, washing your hands often, and getting vaccinated against smallpox.

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