Everything You Need to Know About Monkeypox

Kaila Flemming
(5 mins read)
Health & Wellness

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) relative to the smallpox virus. It is not novel, as it was identified in humans for the first time in 1970 and had been cases reported in humans in central and western African countries. However, this is the first outbreak of this magnitude in the western hemisphere.

How is it spread?

The monkeypox virus is thought to be carried by African rodents and non-human primates (e.g. monkeys) and can be transmitted to humans through contact with an infected animal, another person with monkeypox, or materials that were contaminated with the virus.

Monkeypox is not sexually transmitted but can spread through close, personal contact, including sexual and intimate contact. Examples of contact that could result in the spread of the virus include:

  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs from a person with monkeypox.
  • Contact with objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, towels, sex toys), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected.
  • Contact with respiratory secretions, through kissing and other face-to-face contacts.
  • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina or anus) of a person with monkeypox.
  • Hugging, massage, and kissing

Symptoms of monkeypox?

Early symptoms can include fever, chills, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, headache, and fatigue. A rash or sores may form within a couple of days. In the recent outbreak, the rash or sores are often seen in the genital/groin area and the anal area but can occur all over the body including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Some people experience anal symptoms like bleeding, pain, and mucous. The sores typically progress through a few stages, beginning with flat lesions on the skin that later become raised, then fill with clear fluid (vesicles), then fill with opaque fluid (pustules), after which they begin to crust and scab over.

How is monkeypox treated?

Symptoms usually clear up on their own within 2-4 weeks. Ibuprofen or Tylenol can be helpful for fever and aches. Rest and fluids are also important to prevent dehydration.

Some people who are more susceptible to serious illness may be prescribed antiviral medications.

What to do if you’ve been exposed to monkeypox

If you’ve been exposed to a person or animal suspected of having or has been diagnosed with monkeypox, please book an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately.

You are encouraged to monitor for symptoms for 21 days after the exposure and isolate immediately if symptoms develop.

How can I prevent monkeypox?

A number of measures can help prevent monkeypox infection during the current outbreak:

  • Consider avoiding large gatherings and other settings where you may have close physical contact with others (e.g. clubs, crowded concerts, bars, dance parties, raves).
  • Talk with your sexual partner(s) about any recent illness or potential symptoms of monkeypox (e.g. fever or chills, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, rash) and consider avoiding physical intimacy with strangers whose health status is unknown.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who has recently been diagnosed with the virus or has symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that have been in contact with a sick person or animal.
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus, including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs.

Is there a vaccine?

Smallpox vaccines are about 85% effective against monkeypox, and one vaccine (JYNNEOS) has been specifically approved for both monkeypox and smallpox. Vaccines are available in some clinics for high-risk populations. Please check with your local health department for more information about vaccine eligibility and availability in your area.

Currently, Monkey Pox has not been declared a pandemic- but the World Health Organization has declared it a Global Health Emergency. Meaning, that it is not a widespread disease around the world, but instead, a spreading disease that has raised concerns, and its status is being continually monitored.