What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a viral zoonotic disease, meaning that it can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread between people.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Symptoms of monkeypox typically include a fever, intense headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash or lesions. The rash usually begins within one to three days of the start of a fever. Lesions can be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, and can then crust, dry up and fall off. The number of lesions on one person can range from a few to several thousand. The rash tends to be concentrated on the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet. They can also be found on the mouth, genitals, and eyes.
Symptoms typically last between two to four weeks and go away on their own without treatment. If you think you have symptoms that could be monkeypox, seek advice from your healthcare provider. Let them know if you have had close contact with someone who has suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
How does monkeypox spread from animals to humans?
Monkeypox can spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Animal hosts include rodents and primates. The risk of catching monkeypox from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are sick or dead (including their meat and blood). In endemic countries where animals carry monkeypox, any foods containing animal meat or parts should be cooked thoroughly before eating.
How does monkeypox spread from person to person?
People with monkeypox are infectious while they have symptoms (normally for between two and four weeks). You can catch monkeypox through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms. The rash, bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions) and scabs are particularly infectious. Clothing, bedding, towels or objects like eating utensils/dishes that have been contaminated with the virus from contact with an infected person can also infect others.
Ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth can also be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through saliva. People who closely interact with someone who is infectious, including health workers, household members and sexual partners are therefore at greater risk for infection.
The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the foetus from the placenta, or from an infected parent to child during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact.
It is not clear whether people who do not have symptoms can spread the disease.
Who is at risk of catching monkeypox?
Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who has symptoms of monkeypox, or with an infected animal are at highest risk of infection. People who were vaccinated against smallpox are likely to have some protection against monkeypox infection. However, younger people are unlikely to have been vaccinated against smallpox because smallpox vaccination stopped worldwide after smallpox became the first human disease to be eradicated in 1980. Even though people who have been vaccinated against smallpox will have some protection against monkeypox, they also need to take precautions to protect themselves and others.
How can I protect myself and others against monkeypox?
You can reduce your risk by limiting contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
If you do need to have physical contact with someone who has monkeypox because you are a health worker or live together, encourage the infected person to self-isolate and cover any skin lesion if they can (e.g., by wearing clothing over the rash). When you are physically close to them, they should wear a medical mask, especially if they are coughing or have lesions in their mouth. You should wear one also. Avoid skin-to-skin contact whenever possible and use disposable gloves if you have any direct contact with lesions. Wear a mask when handling any clothes or bedding if the person cannot do it themselves.
Regularly clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after contact with the person who is infected, their clothes, bed sheets, towels and other items or surfaces they have touched or that might have come into contact with their rash or respiratory secretions (e.g., utensils, dishes). Wash the person’s clothes, towels and bedsheets and eating utensils with warm water and detergent. Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces and dispose of contaminated waste (e.g., dressings) appropriately.
Is there a treatment for monkeypox?
Monkeypox symptoms often resolve on their own without the need for treatment. It is important to take care of the rash by letting it dry if possible or covering with a moist dressing to protect the area if needed. Avoid touching any sores in the mouth or eyes. Mouth rinses and eye drops can be used as long as cortisone-containing products are avoided. Vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) may be recommended for severe cases. An antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat, commercialized as TPOXX) was also approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January 2022.
(Information Source: WHO)