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Published on July 07, 2022

Monkeypox 101: Answering Your Questions Amid the Recent Outbreak

monkeypox 101

By Cody Miller, EvergreenHealth Staff Writer

As experts continue to track the monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. and around the world, many of us are learning about the disease for the first time.

Monkeypox was originally discovered in 1958 when two colonies of monkeys being held for research developed a pox-like disease. The virus didn't show up in humans until 1970 when the first case was recorded in central Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The disease does not naturally occur in the U.S., but there have been at least two outbreaks, including one in 2003 and another that began in May.

But how much is already known about the virus? And how worried should you be?

Here are some quick facts about the virus and what you need to know if you or a loved one becomes infected.

What is it?

Monkeypox is milder but very similar to smallpox, with the main difference being that monkeypox causes the lymph nodes to swell. If you were infected with monkeypox, your symptoms would likely start showing one to two weeks after infection. These early signs might be similar to the flu and include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

One of the telltale signs of Monkeypox happens is a fever that lasts one to three days followed by a rash that develops and spreads to other parts of your body. These pockmarks (or lesions) would develop and eventually turn into scabs and fall off.

How is it being transmitted?

Monkeypox spreads through direct contact with body fluids. The virus could spread through contact with an infected animal, like a scratch or bite, as well as through the bodily fluids of an infected person.

This also includes touching any materials that have been in direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids such as a towel, clothes or a blanket.

The virus can also spread through respiratory fluids that can infect you during extended face-to-face contact. Sex, kissing or cuddling with someone who is infected as well as touching areas of the body where monkeypox sores are present puts you at increased risk of catching the virus.

The virus can spread from the time symptoms start until all of the sores and scabs have healed and a new layer of skin has formed, which can take several weeks.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who comes in physical contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person can catch Monkeypox, but there are more vulnerable populations that may need more intensive care if they contract the virus.

These populations include:

  • Those who have monkeypox and another serious illness
  • Those who are immunocompromised
  • Children, especially those younger than 8 years old
  • Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Anyone with one or more complications like a secondary bacterial skin infection

How is it treated?

To help prevent catching the virus, there are two vaccines recommended by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices mostly for those more likely to be exposed to monkeypox through travel or work. These are the one-shot ACAM2000 and the two-shot JYNNEOS vaccines.

If you catch the virus, the CDC says you'll likely have to take it easy and treat your symptoms for a couple of weeks. There are also a few antiviral medications developed for smallpox that could help you recover from monkeypox, including tecovirimat, cidofovir and brincidofovir.

If you or a loved one develop a rash that looks similar to monkeypox, reach out to your doctor or call our free 24/7 Nurse Healthline at 425.899.3000.

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