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Monkeypox Symptoms: What to look for and how it spreads?

Overview

Monkeypox is an infection caused by the monkeypox virus. It’s similar to smallpox and found mainly in Africa but has been noticed in other areas of the world. It causes flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, and a rash that may take weeks to clear. This article covers everything about Monkeypox symptoms, signs and prevention. 

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a zoonotic virus, which means that it spreads from animals to humans. It causes rashes in the body and flu-like symptoms. The infection is caused by the Monkeypox virus, the same virus family (variola virus) that causes smallpox. 

Monkeypox was discovered in the year 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in groups of monkeys being used for the study. It spreads mainly through human contact with infected animals but may sometimes spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. 

There are two known clades (types) of monkeypox virus – one that originated in West Africa and one that originated in Central Africa. The West African clade, which is less severe, is causing the current world outbreak (2022).

How does Monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can spread from one person to another through close contact. An infected person can pass it to the other through:

  • Contact with body fluids, such as blood or semen
  • Respiratory droplets that an individual breathes in
  • Contact with Monkeypox lesions on the skin (including inside their nose and mouth)
  • Through objects in contact with infected body fluids, such as bedding or clothing 

With the 2022 global outbreak, Monkeypox spreads mainly from person to person.

Monkeypox may also spread from animals to people. Infected animals may pass on the virus if they bite or scratch a human. It’s yet to be known whether dogs and cats can be infected, but the CDC warns that we should assume that any mammal can catch Monkeypox.

The agency says it’s possible that infected people may spread Monkeypox to their pets through:

  • Cuddling
  • Hugging
  • Petting
  • Sharing food
  • Sharing sleeping areas

If a person has Monkeypox, it’s better to stay away from wildlife and pets to avoid spreading it. If one has pets, they should ask someone else to take care of them until the person recovers. One may also get Monkeypox from consuming uncooked contaminated meat.

The virus can get into the body through a skin break, mouth, nose, or eyes too. One can breathe it in, but one has probably to be in close contact for a long time. That’s because most droplets don’t travel very far.

The disease is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) since a person can get it from other contact forms. But people infected with Monkeypox can pass it on to another person during sex.

What are the Monkeypox symptoms and Signs?

Post-exposure to Monkeypox, it may be several days to a few weeks before an individual develops symptoms. Early signs of Monkeypox have flu-like symptoms, including:

After a few days, a rash often shows up in the body. The rash begins to appear as flat, red bumps, which can be painful. Those bumps turn into blisters filled with pus. Eventually, the blisters crust and fall off, lasting two to four weeks. A person may also get sores in the mouth, vagina, or anus.

Not everyone develops all the monkeypox symptoms. In fact, in the present 2022 outbreak, in several cases the disease show atypical presentation (not following the usual pattern of symptoms). This presentation includes no swollen lymph nodes, only a few lesions, low-grade fever and other signs of illness. One may have it and not know it. But even if a person does not show many signs of infection, they can still spread it to others through prolonged close contact.

How serious is Monkeypox?

The illness typically runs its course from 2 to 4 weeks. It may get severe, particularly in children, people with other health conditions, or those with weak immune systems.

In some rare cases, thousands of lesions grow together and cause the loss of large skin sections all at once. Death is rare but is a possibility. In Africa, the disease causing death in up to 1 of every 10 people who get it. Children are at high risk for severe illness and death.

Possible severe complications from Monkeypox include secondary infections like:

What to do if exposed to Monkeypox?

If one feels they’ve been exposed to Monkeypox, they should call the doctor for instructions. Check for monkeypox symptoms for 21 days after the first exposure, and do the following:

  • Check the temperature twice a day.
  • If one has chills and swollen lymph nodes but no fever or rash, they should isolate at home.
  • If one gets a fever and/or rash, they should self-isolate immediately and contact the local health department.
  • Call the doctor if chills and swollen lymph nodes don’t go away.
  • If one has no symptoms, they can go about their daily routine as usual. But they shouldn’t donate blood, cells, tissue, breast milk, semen, or organs while monitoring for symptoms.

Call a vet to get the pet checked if it is exposed to Monkeypox. Do not wipe or bathe them with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other cleaning products.

Is Monkeypox curable?

Usually, Monkeypox is a self-limiting disease with symptoms lasting from 2-4 weeks. Many people with Monkeypox get better on their own without any treatment. Following the diagnosis, the healthcare provider helps monitor the condition, relieve symptoms, prevent dehydration, and prescribe antibiotics for treatment of secondary bacterial infections if they develop.

Currently, there’s no approved antiviral treatment for Monkeypox. While antiviral drugs may help, however, studies are still underway on using them as a treatment for Monkeypox. Many antivirals, under investigation as treatment against Monkeypox, are available, but only as part of a research study.

The best thing to do is to seek expert advice. You can always contact our experts and get the best guidance. 

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