It's time to talk about monkeypox. With reports indicating there is an increase in new infections around the world –– including here in the US –– it's easy to be nervous, confused, and simply tired of all the viruses.
So what is monkeypox? Where did it come from? What are the signs and symptoms and how can you protect yourself? And what type of safety levels are we talking about (another shutdown, masking at all times, vaccines, etc.)?
Here, we're delivering some answers based on what's known so far. Things may change as more information is released. We'll get started with what monkeypox is.
What is Monkeypox?
According to the CDC, monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which is in the same family of viruses as smallpox. The virus got its name from scientists after first being discovered in two colonies of monkeys being kept for research purposes in 1958.
The first recorded human case of monkeypox was in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo at a time when an aggressive approach to eliminating smallpox. Since then, it's been seen in several other countries in and out of Africa and linked to international travel and imported animals.
It's unknown where the monkeypox virus maintains its "natural reservoir" but it's believed that non-human primates (like monkeys) and small rodents might harbor the virus and spread it to humans.
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms of monkeypox are similar and milder compared to smallpox, the CDC reported. The main difference between the two viruses is that monkeypox causes the swelling of lymph nodes while smallpox does not.
The period from infection to symptoms is typically 7 to 14 days but may range from 5 to 21 days.
Monkeypox infections typically begin with the following symptoms
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
About 1 to 3 days after experiencing a fever, a person can begin to develop a rash that often starts on the face and begins spreading. Lesions might progress before falling off, the CDC reported.
The disease may last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks and has a 1 in 10 mortality rate.
How does it spread?
Monkeypox is spread through contact with one infected being (human or animal) or materials contaminated with the virus. Monkeypox can spread through open skin (wounds, even broken skin that's not visible to the eye), respiratory tract, or eyes, nose, and mouth.
Transmission can also occur from an infected animal's bite or scratch or coming into contact with the fluid from a lesion.
Between humans, the virus usually transmits through large respiratory droplets via extended face-to-face contact, and contact with lesion fluid either by directly touching it or indirectly, like through clothing and linens.
Prevention & Safety
The CDC recommends staying away from infected animals and practicing good hygiene like hand washing and using masks or other types of personal protective equipment when caring for infected individuals.
There are currently several countries reporting new cases of monkeypox. Some of the cases have so far been linked to international travel, while health authorities investigate community spread of the virus.
Cases have been reported in Canada, the US, Germany, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Netherlands, Israel, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium. See an up-to-date map here.