More than five thousand cases of monkeypox have been reported in countries where it’s not usually found, including the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. The United States alone reports about 305 cases as of June 28th, 2022 (CDC tracker).
Why is this rare disease now in the news? Should you worry? Does it affect children? What can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?
But to start off, there is no need for panic. Monkeypox is not highly contagious like COVID, and experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), believe the risk of a monkeypox pandemic is low.
Still, it’s important to be aware and prepared. Here’s all you need to know.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It belongs to the same family as smallpox but is not as severe.
Monkeypox is rare and, in the past, mostly found in the regions of West and Central Africa. The few cases detected in other countries were linked to travel. However, several of the latest monkeypox cases seem to have no direct link to travel, and there may be new symptoms, which is why experts are paying close attention.
Says Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Solv, “Monkeypox has a characteristic rash that begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. But, according to the CDC, the new cases of monkeypox may have different symptoms: some people have tiny bumps like pimples or blisters on their skin as the first or only sign of monkeypox.”
Additionally, some infected individuals report a localized rash around their genitals and may or may not exhibit the flu-like symptoms associated with monkeypox, according to the CDC Director. The CDC also said that some patients in the United States have proctitis (rectal inflammation).
How do you know if a bump, blister, or rash is monkeypox? Well, the best way to find out is to get tested so you can receive the treatment you need, early. Solv can help you find a same-day appointment with a U.S-based provider near you. You can also schedule a video chat with a provider in as little as 15 minutes using Solv Now.
How do people get monkeypox? Who’s at risk?
According to the CDC, monkeypox can be transmitted from person to person through close contact with an infected individual's body fluids, sores, or respiratory dropl
ets. It can spread through sex, kissing, cuddling, hugging, or other such activities.
The CDC notes that another way to get monkeypox is through direct contact with clothes, hospital bedding, and other materials that have touched infected body fluids or sores.
Monkeypox can also be spread to humans through bites or scratches by infected animals. According to WHO, eating undercooked meat or other animal products from infected animals is another risk factor.
The CDC notes that in people who are pregnant, the monkeypox virus can spread to the fetus through the placenta, leading to congenital monkeypox. Another risk factor is if your immunity has been compromised by HIV, cancers, cancer therapy, autoimmune diseases, or more. People with atopic dermatitis or other skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, burns, herpes, severe acne, and other conditions may be more vulnerable to infection.
In a call with reporters, the CDC Director said there is no evidence that respiratory droplets carrying the monkeypox virus linger over long distances. This means the disease is less likely to spread through the air, like COVID or the flu virus. But, WHO and some other experts differ, as the New York Times reports.
The bottomline: Since monkeypox cases had been rare until now and contained to specific regions in Africa, the disease is under-researched. If you find an unusual bump, rash, pimple, or blister, discuss your symptoms with a healthcare provider sooner than later to get the help you may need.
Symptoms of monkeypox
According to the CDC, symptoms of monkeypox take approximately 7-14 days to appear but can range from 5-21 days.
- Muscle pain
- Back pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body (including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet)
Monkeypox symptoms can often be confused with smallpox and chickenpox, but there are ways to tell them apart.
Monkeypox versus chickenpox versus smallpox: what’s the difference?
According to Dr. Rohatsch, “Monkeypox rashes can be confused for chickenpox or smallpox since symptoms can be quite similar. One big difference between monkeypox and chickenpox is that monkeypox rashes first appear on the face and spread to the rest of the body, while chickenpox tends to show up on the chest or back initially and then spread. Also, monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell — a symptom not typically seen in chickenpox and smallpox.”
Monkeypox, chickenpox, and smallpox rashes may look the same if you’re not a trained medical professional. With the new wave of cases, it’s better to err on the side of caution. If you see an unusual bump, blister, pimple, or rash, Dr. Rohatsch recommends getting a test to make sure.
Can children get monkeypox?
According to WHO, children can get monkeypox, and their symptoms can be more severe than teenagers or adults. WHO notes that one reason for this may be that younger generations do not have the protection of the smallpox vaccine while older individuals do. Many countries discontinued smallpox vaccinations after eradicating the disease in the 1980s. The CDC states that children under 8 years of age are at a higher risk of contracting monkeypox.
Dr. Rohatsch notes, “Pregnant people with monkeypox may transmit the disease to the fetus through the placenta. Newborn babies can also get monkeypox during birth or close physical contact after birth, like during breastfeeding. If you are pregnant or have young kids, it’s natural to worry. The important thing is to take reasonable precautions and be aware of symptoms. If you or your children develop flu-like symptoms or notice bumps, blisters, or a rash, get examined by a medical professional immediately.”
If you’re worried and want to speak with a provider about any suspicious symptoms, you can use Solv Now to connect with a US-based provider through video chat in as little as 15 minutes.
How to diagnose monkeypox?
The best way to diagnose monkeypox is a physical examination by a trained medical professional. For infected individuals with skin lesions, blisters, or a rash, samples of the lesion or fluid from the rash can be used in a lab PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, according to WHO.
Blood tests for monkeypox are usually inconclusive, notes WHO.
If you have concerns or think you may have monkeypox, you may use Solv to book a same-day appointment with a healthcare provider near you.
What is the treatment for monkeypox?
Currently, there is no specific treatment for monkeypox, but the CDC has interim guidelines for healthcare professionals treating monkeypox patients in 2022.
The CDC notes that Monkeypox is usually self-limiting, which means the disease tends to go away on its own, in time without treatment. In most people, monkeypox usually lasts 2-4 weeks. Antivirals developed for smallpox may be effective in treating monkeypox. These include FDA-approved antivirals like Tecovirimat, Cidofovir, Vaccinia Immune Globulin Intravenous, and Brincidofovir.
If you suspect you or a loved one has monkeypox, it is important not to self-diagnose or ignore your symptoms, hoping they may go away by themselves. Isolate and contact a healthcare provider to get timely assistance and help prevent the spread to your family or community.
How to protect yourself from monkeypox?
To start, some basic precautions help lower your risk of contracting monkeypox.
- Isolate if infected: If you suspect you may have monkeypox, isolate yourself to protect your loved ones and community from infection
- Avoid contact with bedding, linen, and other materials that may have been in contact with an infected individual
- Wash your hands well with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer after touching animals or a loved one who may be infected
- Practice safe sex and learn the travel history of your sexual partner(s)
- Healthcare professionals must use PPE (personal protective equipment) when exposed to patients who exhibit monkeypox symptoms
If you suspect you’ve come in close contact with someone infected with monkeypox, there’s no need to panic.
Talk to a healthcare professional to set your mind at ease. Book a same-day appointment with a provider near you using Solv. You can also schedule a video visit with a US-based provider in less than 15 minutes using Solv Now.
Note: On June 7th, 2022, the CDC issued a Level 2 travel advisory (enhanced precautions) due to the rise in monkeypox cases.
Is there a monkeypox vaccine available?
There is no vaccine developed specifically for monkeypox, but smallpox vaccines can be used to fight monkeypox infections. One such vaccine for monkeypox is Jynneos, approved by the FDA in 2019 for adults over 18 to prevent smallpox and monkeypox. The vaccine is administered in two doses, four weeks apart. The US Department of Health and Human Services plans to provide 56,000 Jynneos doses immediately, and 240,000 more soon. Overall, federal health officials plan to release 1.6 million vaccines by the end of the year.
WHO and the CDC believe that the smallpox vaccines are 85% effective against monkeypox. Dr. Rohatsch adds, “This belief is based on one human observational study from Zaire in 1988. Several animal studies have also shown that smallpox vaccines are helpful against monkeypox. More research is needed to know exactly how well smallpox vaccines work against monkeypox in humans”.
Smallpox vaccines used to be commonly given to children in the United States, but were discontinued in the 1970s and 80s, so most people under the age of 50 have not received a smallpox vaccine.
As cases rise in countries outside west and central Africa, countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and some countries in Europe have begun smallpox vaccinations to help curb monkeypox outbreaks. The process is called ring vaccination, where the infected person and people in close contact with them are vaccinated to help curb the spread.
If you would like to know more about the monkeypox vaccine for you or a loved one, discuss your personal medical history with a medical professional. Using Solv, you can get a same-day appointment with a healthcare provider near you.
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- 2022 Monkeypox and Orthopoxvirus Outbreak Global Map (June 10, 2022)
- WHO Episode #73 - Monkeypox (June 9, 2022)
- WHO Multi-country monkeypox outbreak: situation update (June 4, 2022)
- CDC Media Telebriefing: Update on 2022 U.S. Monkeypox Investigation (June 9, 2022)
- CDC Monkeypox Transmission (May 29, 2022)
- WHO Monkeypox (May 19, 2022)
- CDC Interim Clinical Guidance for the Treatment of Monkeypox (June 10, 2022)
- C.D.C. Dismisses Airborne Transmission of Monkeypox. Some Experts Disagree (June 10, 2022)
- CDC Monkeypox Signs and Symptoms (July 16, 2021)
- CDC Monkeypox Prevention (June 9, 2022)
- FDA News Release: FDA approves first live, non-replicating vaccine to prevent smallpox and monkeypox (September 24, 2019)
- HHS Announces Enhanced Strategy to Vaccinate and Protect At-Risk Individuals from the Current Monkeypox Outbreak (June 28, 2022)
- CDC Monkeypox in Multiple Countries Alert (June 7, 2022)
- CDC Monkeypox and Smallpox Vaccine Guidance (June 2, 2022)
- CDC Ring Vaccination (December 2, 2019)