What is Monkeypox: Signs, symptoms, and how it spreads

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have heard about a recent outbreak of monkeypox. But what is monkeypox? Should you be worried? 

First of all, monkeypox is a rare disease similar to chickenpox and smallpox in that it is highly contagious. It is usually found in animals but can sometimes infect humans. A major cause for concern about this latest outbreak is its novel spread, which is largely due to direct skin-to-skin contact.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared monkeypox a public health emergency in response to the current outbreak. Here’s a quick guide on all you need to know about this virus to stay informed.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an infectious disease and should be treated as a public health concern. It is spread by close physical contact with infected animals, like monkeys, rats, and squirrels. It is also possible to spread the disease from one person to another. 

A monkeypox infection causes a rare disease called monkeypox. Monkeypox got its name because it was first observed in monkeys. However, the virus is primarily transmitted by rodents. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is carefully monitoring monkeypox. Monkeypox outbreaks are highly contagious, but some groups may be at greater risk of severe outcomes depending on the extent of virus exposure. This category includes the elderly, young children under eight, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems. 

What causes monkeypox?

The monkeypox virus belongs to the same family as the variola virus, which causes smallpox But it is milder than smallpox, and it rarely leads to death.

However, getting monkeypox can be extremely dangerous if you have a weakened immune system because of HIV, cancer, transplants, pregnancy, or other skin conditions like eczema. 

 The disease is more likely to affect people who have never been vaccinated against smallpox. 

What are the symptoms of monkeypox? 

Ninety-five percent of individuals developed a rash within 17 days when exposed to monkeypox. The CDC estimates the incubation period between exposure and rash onset to be 9 days on average. The first signs of the disease include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough) 

Monkeypox can cause all or only some symptoms described above depending on the individual, and can potentially appear in this order, such as:  

  • A rash may first appear, followed by other symptoms. 
  • A rash may be all you get without other monkeypox symptoms. The rash may resemble blisters or pimples. 
  • The rash usually appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, including hands, chest, and genitals. 

Although you should be able to get better in 2 to 4 weeks, see a doctor if you experience symptoms of monkeypox to monitor symptoms before they lead to severe complications, such as secondary infections, inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs, an extreme, full-body immune response, inflammation of the brain, and corneal infection leading to vision loss. 

How is monkeypox transmitted?

The monkeypox virus spreads from animal to human through bites, scratches, eating meat or products derived from it, or direct contact with an infected animal’s blood, bodily fluids, or lesions.

Humans can also contract monkeypox through close, direct skin-to-skin contact, including: 

  • Direct exposure to a rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person infected with monkeypox
  • Close contact sports
  • Exposure to respiratory secretions
  • Contact with spit droplets during close conversations
  • Pregnant women may transmit the virus through their placenta to their fetuses
  • Coming into contact with recently contaminated materials like clothing, bedding, and other linens used by someone with monkeypox
  • Direct contact with a person who has monkeypox. This may happen as a result of intimate acts such as:
    • Sexual contact, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex, or touching their genitals or anus
    • Hugging, cuddling, massage, and kissing
    • Face-to-face contact for an extended period
    • Using fabrics and objects that have not been disinfected after being used by someone with monkeypox during sex, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys

Monkeypox can spread from when symptoms begin until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has developed. 

Can monkeypox be prevented?

Monkeypox outbreaks are associated with close contact with infected persons. While the smallpox vaccine provides protection against monkeypox, its use is currently limited to clinical trials. The best way to protect yourself from monkeypox is to avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox.

It is also wise to avoid unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those who may be sick or deceased, including their flesh, blood, bones, and other parts. Additionally, all food containing animal meat or cuts must be thoroughly cooked before consumption.

If you know of a friend or family member who has monkeypox:

  • Avoid any contact with them if possible. 
  • Whenever you must be within 6 feet of them, you should wear a respirator or well-fitting mask, and they should do the same. 
  • Do not share silverware or cups. 
  • Keep your hands off their sheets, blankets, towels, and clothing. 
  • If you come into contact with these things, wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize with alcohol. 

If possible, persons previously vaccinated against smallpox should care for individuals with monkeypox

Next steps

You should also discuss any recent illnesses with your partner if you are sexually active. Pay attention to any new or unexplained rashes on yourself or your partner. Do not have sex, kiss, hug, cuddle, or touch each other intimately if either of you recently fell ill, have monkeypox symptoms, or have new or unexplained rashes. 

It’s important to wash your hands often with soap and water or to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.

When to get help for monkeypox?

See a healthcare provider if you have been in close contact with someone infected with monkeypox or if you have a new or unexplained rash. Describe your symptoms honestly and let the doctor know you are worried about monkeypox. 

Put on a mask and cover the rash with clothing, gloves, or bandages if you think you have monkeypox. Don’t forget to:

  • Make sure you see your doctor before you touch anyone.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations if your test results are positive.
  • Keep your hands clean. Avoid touching your eyes. Use glasses instead of contact lenses to prevent eye infections.
  • Wait until your rash is healed, all scabs have fallen off, and the fresh layer of skin has formed before interacting with others. You may need to wear a mask around others and regularly clean and disinfect your living space.
  • Be conscious of avoiding pets and people more susceptible to getting very sick, such as children under eight years old, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems or certain skin conditions. 

With the vaccine for monkeypox in short supply, early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome. Remember, protecting yourself from this disease is possible. If you think you may have contracted monkeypox, please seek medical attention immediately.

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Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered, construed or interpreted as legal or professional advice, guidance or opinion.

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