Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus with symptoms very similar to those seen in the past in smallpox. Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
Most people recover within about two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized, monkeypox can be fatal for up to 6% of cases and is thought to be more severe in children.
Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus. It is also transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials. The illness begins with fever, severe headache, swollen lymph nodes and back pain, then new symptoms such as a skin rash begin to appear. Symptoms last from 14 to 21 -days, while the incubation period for the virus is usually 7-14 days.
The virus enters the body through cracks in the skin, open tissues such as the mouth, nose, eyes, or the respiratory system.
You can catch monkeypox from an infected animal if you’re bitten or you touch its blood, body fluids, spots, blisters or scabs. It may also be possible to catch monkeypox by eating meat from an infected animal that has not been cooked thoroughly, or by touching other products from infected animals, such as animal skin or fur. Monkeypox can also spread from person to person through the coughs or sneezes of a person with the monkeypox rash, touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash, touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs including during sexual intercourse.
The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox can range from 5−21 days. Most people recover within two to four weeks without requiring hospitalization, but monkeypox can be fatal in up to 1 in 10 people, and may be more severe in children, pregnant women and persons with immune suppression due to other health conditions.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Doctors divide the symptoms that affect patients into two stages:
1. The invasion period ranges between 0 and 5 days. Symptoms include:
- Severe headache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Back and muscle pain
2. Skin rash
A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. It often begins on the face, then spreads to the arms and legs and then to the hands and feet. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off. The symptoms usually clear up in a few weeks. Some patients may develop swollen lymph nodes before the rash appears, a symptom that distinguishes monkeypox from other similar diseases.
Monkeypox is diagnosed by:
- Sending samples of infected tissues to the lab for culture and analysis.
- Do blood tests to check for antibodies for the monkeypox virus.
- Detection of the DNA in the infected tissue.
- Microscopic examination of samples from the infected tissues.
- Protecting yourself against monkeypox
Practice good hand hygiene, especially after coming into contact with infected — or suspected infected — animals or humans. This includes washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid coming into contact with animals that could be carrying the virus, this includes sick or dead animals. You should also avoid coming into contact with people recently diagnosed with the virus or those who may have been infected, and you must only eat meat that has been thoroughly cooked.
Treatments and Vaccines
At this time, there are no specific treatments available for monkeypox infection, but monkeypox outbreaks can be controlled. The approved treatments aim to relieve symptoms and keep the patient comfortable until he recovers. Furthermore, a patient with suspected or confirmed monkeypox infection should be placed in a single-person room.
Past data suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox. The original (first generation) smallpox vaccines from the eradication program are no longer available to the general public.
The difference between smallpox and monkeypox
Transmission of the two viruses occurs through close physical contact with animals or humans, their body fluids, contaminated droplet particles from respiratory secretions or infected skin lesions.
The main difference between symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell while smallpox does not. Monkeypox virus belongs to the family of Poxviruses, while chickenpox belongs to the family of Varicella Zoster viruses.
Skin rash is different in both illnesses. In chickenpox, spots do not appear simultaneously and they spread at different times. However, monkeypox blisters appear and develop at the same time. Symptoms of monkeypox last
two to four weeks, but some strains can lead to severe forms of the disease. According to the WHO, the case fatality ratio has recently been around 3–6%. Symptoms of chickenpox last for two weeks, and quickly subside within seven days.
Within 1 to 3 days after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash goes through different skin eruption phases. It starts off flat and red, but then gets bumpy and blistered, before forming scabs.
While chickenpox is common and highly contagious, monkeypox remains a rare disease and does not spread easily between people.