I’m sure that you have all been hearing about the recent outbreak of monkeypox in the US and other countries. As of 6/9/22, there have been 45 confirmed cases in the US. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, you are probably wondering just how worried you should be about this infection.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare infection caused by a type of virus called a pox virus. It causes an illness that is similar to smallpox but is overall much less deadly and much less infectious. Until 2003, this infection was limited to the rain forests of central and western Africa. In 2003, there was a small outbreak in the US after some infected animals were imported to the US. In 2021, there were 2 isolated cases reported in the US in people who had recently traveled to Nigeria. The most recent outbreak started in May 2022.
How is the virus transmitted? Just how contagious is it?
Prior to May 2022, most human cases were a result of exposure to infected animals, without definitive spread between people. Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed as a major factor in the current outbreak.
This virus is contagious with close or direct contact, particularly contact when a person has fever or any active skin lesions. It is not nearly as contagious as COVID-19.
How long after being exposed to monkeypox will a person get sick?
The incubation period ranges from 4-20 days, averaging about 12 days.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Unlike COVID-19, it is extremely unusual to have an asymptomatic case of monkeypox. If you get this infection, you will know it.
Fever is usually the first symptom, which is often accompanied by chills, sweats, severe headache, body aches, sore throat, poor appetite, exhaustion, shortness of breath, and cough.
Usually within 1 to 4 days of the fever starting (sometimes up to 10 days), almost all patients will develop a rash, which looks much like a chickenpox rash. As chickenpox is very uncommon since the chickenpox vaccine was introduced, I will give you a good description of the rash for those of you who don’t remember chickenpox.
- The rash consists of scattered small blisters with a red base. The blisters are usually between 3-15 millimeters in diameter.
- The rash usually starts on the face then spreads to the rest of the body, which can include the scalp, palms, and soles.
- Some patients may have a relatively small number of blisters; most people will have a lot.
- Within a few days, blisters will become pustules.
- Pustules will then become dimpled and will crust over.
Within 2-3 days of the fever starting, lymph nodes will become swollen, usually in the neck and under the chin. The swollen lymph nodes distinguish this infection from chickenpox.
How long does the infection last? Is there treatment?
The illness usually lasts 2-4 weeks and resolves without treatment. If a person is at high risk for severe disease, there are antiviral medications which can be used to treat this infection.
What can you do to prevent the spread of monkeypox?
- If you have fever associated with typical symptoms mentioned above, you should see your doctor to have this evaluated.
- If you have a rash that looks like monkeypox, you should see your doctor right away, even if you don’t think you have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has fever or a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Practice good hand hygiene, washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
For more information about monkeypox, use this link:
Monkeypox | Poxvirus | CDC
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor