Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Previously, almost all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals.
Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
The rash resembles pimples or blisters and can appear on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
How it Spreads
Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
Touching contaminated objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
Contact with respiratory secretions. This includes direct contact during hugging, kissing and sexual activity.
A pregnant woman can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.
A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections, however, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.
Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, such as patients with weakened immune systems.
If you have symptoms of monkeypox, you should talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has monkeypox.
CDC is tracking an outbreak of monkeypox that has spread across several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States.
Two vaccines may be used for the prevention of Monkeypox virus infection:
- JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex), licensed (or approved) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of Monkeypox virus infection, and
- ACAM2000, licensed (or approved) by FDA for use against smallpox and made available for use against monkeypox under an Expanded Access Investigational New Drug application.
No data is available yet on the effectiveness of these vaccines in the current outbreak.
JYNNEOS doses should be prioritized for those people who are at risk for serious adverse events with ACAM2000 or severe disease from monkeypox (such as people with HIV or other immunocompromised conditions).
Here is to your good health,