If you’ve been following health news lately, you’ve probably seen some headlines about monkeypox. And chances are, you probably don’t know much about it. If you’re wondering what the symptoms for Monkeypox are and how worried you should be, you’ll find everything you need to know here.
But before we get into the details, there are two essential things to know.
One, while it is contagious, it is not nearly as easily transmitted as COVID-19. We know how scary it is to hear about another possible pandemic, but that isn’t something you should worry about with monkeypox.
Two, while it is related to smallpox, it isn’t nearly as severe and only very rarely deadly, especially this current strain. Most people who have it, even in third-world countries, survive and heal completely within four to six weeks.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic condition, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans as well as person to person. It is part of the Orthopoxvirus genus, which includes Smallpox, Cowpox, and other similar diseases.
It is typically a rarely seen disease, even in its most common locations of central and west Africa. Usually, people traveling from these areas or imported animals are the only time cases occur outside Africa.
Experts first discovered monkeypox in a group of monkeys they were using for research in 1958. Then, in 1970, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recorded the first case in a human while attempting to eradicate smallpox in their population.
Since then, doctors and researchers have seen it in people throughout specific regions in Africa.
What are the Symptoms for Monkeypox?
The most obvious symptom is a painful, pox-like rash that can start on the infected person’s hands, feet, face, mouth, or genitals. This rash begins with flat, red spots that become raised and filled with pus over the course of five to seven days as it spreads across the body.
Before the rash appears, the other symptoms for monkeypox include headaches, fever, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion.
Although these symptoms are similar to smallpox, except for swollen lymph nodes, this is a much less severe disease.
Since these symptoms are common with any infection, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor any time you feel sick.
How is it Transmitted?
Because of its rarity, virologists and other researchers have not studied monkeypox transmission as much as other more common contagious diseases.
However, we do know that it is transmitted through person-to-person contact, meaning direct touching of the rash.
Although the current monkeypox outbreak has been verified most among young gay men, there is no evidence that this is a sexually-transmitted disease.
Men, women, and children can and do get it.
It’s far more likely that it’s only spreading during sex because of direct contact with an active rash. That’s why it’s important to monitor symptoms for monkeypox or any other lesions and avoid direct or indirect contact with others during an active outbreak.
Prevalence of Monkeypox in the U.S.
While doctors and researchers across the nation continue to monitor and gather information, there have 560 verified cases of monkeypox in the U.S. at the time of publishing. (Click the link to see a detailed map of how many cases per state.)
Those cases are spread across most of the country with the most in California, New York, Florida, and Illinois. While not as prevalent in Texas, there have been 20 confirmed cases currently diagnosed in our state.
Worldwide, cases have risen to almost 7,000 across 52 countries. Experts believe that monkeypox may have been spreading undetected for years, possibly even decades, without any tracking or knowledge of its transmission.
The CDC continuously updates their website as experts confirm more cases across the U.S. and worldwide. You can visit the official CDC website if you would like to keep up with the latest reports of Monkeypox and other health-related news.
The most crucial thing to know is that if you have symptoms for monkeypox or any infectious disease, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
How to Stay Safe
As with all infectious diseases, the number one way to stay safe is to wash your hands, especially after interacting with the public.
If you know somebody has a rash, avoid all skin-to-skin and face-to-face contact. Because lesions can occur in the mouth and nose, monkeypox may be transmissible through saliva during sneezing, coughing, or even talking.
Of course, contact can be difficult to avoid if the infected person is your child or somebody you care for. In these cases, wear gloves whenever possible, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask. They should frequently wash their hands and wear masks, as well.
The symptoms for monkeypox can last between two to four weeks, and transmission is possible during that entire time. As with Chickenpox, it is typically no longer contagious when the rash has completely scabbed over and begun to heal.
Talk to Your Provider About the Symptoms for Monkeypox and Other Conditions
Nobody wants to be fearful or prepared for another pandemic, and fortunately, that’s probably not something we have to worry about with monkeypox.
Even if you do get it, the chances of severe reactions are minimal. Historically, in Africa, the monkeypox mortality rate is just 5%. Most people don’t even require treatment before healing completely.
Only 1% of people verified to have this current strain of monkeypox have died, and none of those deaths has occurred in the U.S.
Since COVID-19, we’ve all learned to be a little more watchful and careful with hygiene in public, and this outbreak is a reminder that it’s still just as important.
Keep washing your hands, and talk to your healthcare provider if you suspect you have any symptoms for monkeypox.
The chances are low that you do, but the only way to stop the spread is to know where it is.