What You Need To Know About Monkeypox
If you’ve watched or read any health-related news lately, it’s likely that you’ve noticed a new virus being mentioned – monkeypox. An outbreak of monkeypox began in Europe earlier this year, and cases have also been detected more recently in the United States.
Q. Is monkeypox a new virus?
A. The first human case of monkeypox was identified in 1970, in a 9-month old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, there have been monkeypox cases in a number of countries in Africa, and there was also an outbreak in the United States in 2003, when 70 cases were reported. The most recent outbreak began in May 2022, with cases reported in multiple areas, including in Europe, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Monkeypox is a member of the orthopox family of viruses, related to the smallpox virus.
Q. Where did the name ‘monkeypox’ come from?
A. Monkeypox was first discovered in the 1950’s when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease were observed in a colony of monkeys. The source of the disease, however, remains unknown, although African rodents and non-human primates, like monkeys, may harbor the virus and infect humans.
Q. What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox?
A. Symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, muscle aches and backaches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, congestion or cough. In addition, monkeypox can include a rash on the body. The rash can look like blisters and is often painful and itchy. Some people may get the rash first, following the other symptoms, while some only experience the rash.
Q. How does monkeypox spread?
A. Monkeypox is spread through close, personal contact. This can include direct contact with a rash or scabs from a person with monkeypox, touching objects or fabrics, such as bedding or towels, that have been used by someone with monkeypox and contact with respiratory secretions. Monkeypox can also be spread through unprotected sexual contact.
Q. How can I protect myself from monkeypox?
A. At this point, the risk of contracting monkeypox is low. Avoid contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox. If someone has monkeypox, they should avoid close contact with others until their skin lesions are completely healed, which may take up to two weeks. If you have been exposed to monkeypox, contact your health care provider for guidance.
Q. What treatments are available for monkeypox?
A. For most people, monkeypox will resolve without any treatment. However, there are antiviral treatments available for those with severe cases. In addition, there’s a vaccine available. Currently, the CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and those who may be more likely to get monkeypox. Vaccine supply is limited. The state of Michigan has received about 3,000 doses currently allocated to county health departments in Detroit, Washtenaw, Kent, Kalamazoo, Ingham, Genesee and Grand Traverse Counties.
Lydia Watson, M.D., is a senior vice president and the chief medical officer at MyMichigan Health.