Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Previously, almost all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals. These cases occurred on multiple continents.
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder; and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
How it Spreads
Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:
- direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.
Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
5️⃣ things sexually active people need to know about #monkeypox: CDC’s Dr. Demetre Daskalakis explains ways to make informed choices when in spaces or situations where monkeypox could be spread. https://t.co/J3h8ZwSZFv pic.twitter.com/59xo585eNK
— CDC (@CDCgov) July 26, 2022
Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.
If you are sick with monkeypox:
- Isolate at home
- If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, when possible.
CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who are at higher risk of being exposed to monkeypox, including:
- People who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox
- People who may have been exposed to monkeypox, such as:
- People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox
- People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox
- People whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses, such as:
- Laboratory workers who perform testing for orthopoxviruses
- Laboratory workers who handle cultures or animals with orthopoxviruses
- Some designated healthcare or public health workers