What is Monkeypox? – Monkeypox Fact Sheet 2023

Monkeypox is a viral disease that often captures global health attention due to its potential to cause severe illness. This article delves into the details of the monkeypox disease and the monkeypox virus to equip you with the relevant information you need to understand this disease.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) that typically occurs in remote parts of Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests. This disease also referred to as monkeypox virus infection, manifests symptoms similar to, but milder than, smallpox, a disease eradicated back in 1980.

The Monkeypox Virus

The monkeypox virus is a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. The virus enters the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes, including the eyes, nose, or mouth. Human monkeypox can be transmitted from human to human, often through large respiratory droplets.

How Does Monkeypox Start and What Does It Look Like?

Monkeypox starts with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. The main difference between monkeypox and other similar diseases is the rash that develops, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body.

The monkeypox rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off. Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from 14 to 21 days.

What Does Monkeypox Look Like?
What Does Monkeypox Look Like?

Is Monkeypox Deadly?

While monkeypox is a severe disease that can cause death, its fatality rate is lower than that of smallpox. Most monkeypox mortality reports are among individuals with weak immune systems. Case fatality rates have varied widely, from 0 to 11% during outbreaks.

How Contagious is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a moderately contagious disease. It spreads through respiratory droplets from infected individuals, or by contact with the rash, blood, other bodily fluids, or clothing of an infected person.

How Do You Catch Monkeypox?

You can catch monkeypox through close contact with animals infected with the virus, especially rodents, and monkeys, or by eating inadequately cooked meat of infected animals. Human-to-human transmission occurs through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, rash, or contaminated materials.

CDC on Monkeypox

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines on how to prevent and control monkeypox infection. The CDC advises against contact with animals that could harbor the virus. If you must handle rodents or monkeys, wear gloves and other protective clothing.

Furthermore, the CDC advocates for the isolation of infected individuals and the use of personal protective equipment by healthcare workers to prevent human-to-human transmission.

Monkey pox fact sheet
Monkey pox fact sheet

Key Facts to Remember About Monkeypox

Key Characteristics of Monkeypox

  • Zoonotic: Monkeypox is a zoonotic virus, meaning it’s transferred from animals to humans.
  • Similar to Smallpox: The disease presents similar symptoms to smallpox but is typically milder.
  • Distinctive Rash: The key distinguishing symptom of monkeypox is a rash that usually starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Incubation Period: The incubation period for monkeypox is typically 7 to 14 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.

Animals and Monkeypox

Monkeypox was first discovered when outbreaks occurred amongst monkeys. Rodents are believed to be the primary natural reservoir of the monkeypox virus. Human infections have been documented through the handling of infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats, and squirrels.

Human-to-Human Transmission

Monkeypox can spread from human to human, primarily through large respiratory droplets during close contact. Direct contact with body fluids or cutaneous or mucosal lesions can also lead to transmission. Indirect transmission can occur through contact with the bedding or clothing of an infected person.

Complications and Treatment of Monkeypox

Severe and sometimes fatal illness can occur in individuals with weakened immune systems. Complications can include secondary infections, bronchopneumonia, sepsis, and encephalitis.

Although there is no specific antiviral treatment for monkeypox, the disease is usually self-limiting and most individuals recover within several weeks. In severe cases, healthcare providers may consider the off-label use of medications that have been shown to work against the poxvirus in laboratory studies.

Prevention of Monkeypox

Prevention of monkeypox involves avoiding contact with animals that could harbor the virus, and maintaining good hygiene after contact with animals or humans who might be infected. Vaccination against smallpox has been proven to be 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.

Responding to a Monkeypox Outbreak

In the event of a monkeypox outbreak, rapid response, and timely diagnosis and management are crucial. A comprehensive response includes active case finding, contact tracing, isolation of patients, and vaccination of health workers and other contacts.

The Global Health Perspective

Globally, health authorities are monitoring the monkeypox situation closely due to the potential for the virus to spread, especially in regions without previous cases. International cooperation and communication are vital in responding to monkeypox outbreaks.

As our understanding of monkeypox improves, health organizations worldwide continue their work to manage and mitigate the impacts of this disease. Public education is a critical tool in this effort, equipping individuals with the knowledge they need to protect themselves and their communities.

Monkeypox Fact Sheet

Key Data and Current Situation

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research. The first human case was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In recent years, most reported cases come from countries in Central and West Africa.

As of June 2023, sporadic cases continue to occur primarily in remote African regions. Isolated incidents have been reported outside of Africa, generally tied to travel or animal imports.

CDC Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following guidelines to prevent and control monkeypox:

  • Health Education: Health authorities should provide education about the risk factors and prevention methods for monkeypox.
  • Avoid Contact: People should avoid contact with animals that might harbor the virus, particularly rodents, and monkeys. If contact is unavoidable, gloves and protective clothing should be worn.
  • Isolate Patients: Patients with suspected or confirmed monkeypox should be isolated to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Use Personal Protective Equipment: Healthcare workers should use personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves when treating patients with suspected or confirmed monkeypox.

FDA Guidelines

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guides healthcare professionals:

  • Vaccination: The FDA has authorized the use of smallpox (variola) vaccine in certain populations at high risk of monkeypox. The vaccine does not specifically target monkeypox, but it is believed to provide cross-protection due to the genetic similarities between the two viruses.
  • Treatment: While no specific treatment for monkeypox exists, some antiviral medications have been used in severe cases under an investigational drug protocol.

For more comprehensive information on monkeypox, please refer to resources from reliable health organizations like the CDC and FDA. The World Health Organization also provides an extensive resource bank for global infectious diseases, including monkeypox.

Remember, prevention starts with awareness. Being informed about diseases such as monkeypox is the first step to protecting yourself and your community.

FAQs about Monkeypox Disease/Virus

Here are 15 frequently asked questions about monkeypox:

What else is monkeypox called?

Monkeypox is also known as monkeypox virus infection (MPOX).

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox spreads through contact with an infected person’s rash, body fluids, or contaminated materials.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, and a distinct rash.

Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

Currently, there’s no specific treatment or vaccine available for monkeypox, but outbreaks can be controlled.

How long does monkeypox last?

The illness lasts for 14 to 21 days.

Can monkeypox be cured?

There’s no specific treatment for monkeypox, but it’s usually self-limiting and resolves on its own.

Can monkeypox be prevented?

Monkeypox can be prevented by avoiding contact with infected animals and people and maintaining good hygiene.

What animals can transmit monkeypox?

Rodents and monkeys are the main animals known to transmit monkeypox.

Can you get Monkeypox twice?

It’s rare, but possible, to get monkeypox more than once.

Is monkeypox contagious to other animals?

Yes, monkeypox can be transmitted to other animals from humans.

Is monkeypox airborne?

Monkeypox can be spread through large respiratory droplets.

Who is at risk for monkeypox?

People living in or near the forested areas of Central and West Africa are most at risk.

What does a monkeypox rash look like?

The monkeypox rash is distinctive with raised bumps filled with fluid, often starting from the face.

Where does monkeypox come from?

Monkeypox is believed to originate from rodents in the African rainforests.

How can I protect myself from monkeypox?

Avoid contact with infected people, animals, and materials. Maintain good hygiene and wear protective clothing if in contact with potentially infected animals or people.

By understanding monkeypox, its symptoms, and how it spreads, we can better protect ourselves and our communities from this rare but potentially serious disease.