Monkeypox is Spreading — What to Know
By Nicole Blattman
Monkeypox is of the same family of disease as the virus that causes smallpox.
Over 11,400 cases have been reported in countries that have not historically seen monkeypox.
Monkeypox presents with a rash that can appear like pimples or blisters.
Monkeypox is spread by close contact with infected individuals, if you think you may have come into contact with an infected person or animal, consult with your doctor about vaccination.
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a significant increase in the morbidity of a certain disease– but not the one you may think. While the world continued to sort through the fallout and continuance of COVID-19, another virus spread quietly and efficiently: monkeypox. The monkeypox virus is a poxvirus, which is the same disease family as the variola virus that is responsible for smallpox.
History of Monkeypox
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 within a colony of– you guessed it– monkeys. While discovered in a group of monkeys kept for research purposes, the origin of the disease may very well be elsewhere. Its origin is relatively unknown, but monkeys, other primates, and rodents tend to act as reservoirs of the disease and spread it to humans. The first human case of monkeypox was in 1970 in Africa. Monkeypox then remained, for the most part, contained in western and central Africa with some other cases linked to international travel. It was not until the 2022 outbreak that a high volume of countries reported cases of the disease.
The 2022 Outbreak
Now, since January 1st, 2022, there have been over 11,400 cases of Monkeypox in countries that have not historically reported cases of the disease. Some of these countries include Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, and France, which together make up over 8,300 of these reports.
Transmission of Monkeypox
Monkeypox is a virus, spreading through sustained contact with an infected individual. A significant portion of those with reported cases of monkeypox have been men who have sex with men, but monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, nor is it specific to any group based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. Anyone can contract monkeypox through close contact with an infected individual.
Signs and Symptoms of Monkeypox
Monkeypox symptoms are comparable to those of smallpox, but usually more mild and less fatal. Most, if not all, monkeypox patients will experience a rash. This rash can appear in conjunction with other symptoms, but some only experience the rash. The virus typically lasts between 2 and 4 weeks. Symptoms include:
Swollen lymph nodes
The monkeypox rash may look like pimples or blisters, and they can appear anywhere on the body: on the face, back, genitals, inside the mouth, etc.
The best method of preventing monkeypox is avoiding close contact with those who are infected. Avoiding close contact means: no touching, hugging/kissing, sharing utensils, or handling the bedding, towels, or clothing of someone will monkeypox. Additionally, practicing good hygiene can be helpful in preventing infection, such as regular hand-washing. Further, in western and central Africa, this could mean avoiding touching or handling any animals that could be infected, such as rodents and primates.
If you think you may have come into contact with an infected person, or you think you are at high-risk of doing so, vaccination is an option. If a public health official has identified you as a close contact, you are aware that a sexual partner from the past 2 weeks has become infected, or you work a job exposing you to orthopoxviruses, vaccination may be a good idea. In the United States, you can reach out to the Centers for Disease Control to discuss vaccination.