What you need to know about the new monkey smallpox

The 2022 Global Smallpox Survey is still in its infancy and public health groups are learning more and more every day.

An infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago answers general questions about monkeys.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have observed cases of smallpox in monkeys, which are commonly reported in many non-infected countries, including the United States.

As of June 10, 2022, the CDC reported 1,472 confirmed cases of monkey smallpox in 33 non-endemic countries. The list (from most cases to the smallest) includes: Great Britain, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Canada, France, the Netherlands, USA, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Australia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Denmark, Israel, Finland, Argentina, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Austria, Brazil, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Mexico, Morocco and Poland.

This new epidemic of smallpox is making headlines about this rare, contagious virus. Unlike previous clusters of smallpox, the global study of the 2022 epidemic is still in its infancy, and public health groups are learning more and more about the growing number of cases.

Emily Landon Uchicago Medicine

Associate Professor Emily Landon. Credit: UChicago Medicine

Emily Landon specializes in infectious diseases and is the executive medical director for infection prevention and control.[{” attribute=””>University of Chicago Medicine. She writes:

“It’s important to know that the risk of acquiring monkeypox through casual contact is extremely low at this time. And our best

What does monkeypox look like? Are there other symptoms?

A monkeypox rash starts as red spots and progresses over time to pus-filled, blister-like lesions that eventually scab over. It is typically found on the face or extremities like the hands, legs and feet. The lesions are generally all the same size and develop at the same rate. In the latest round of cases, many of the patients had the rash on only the genitals or anus, which means the symptoms may be mistaken for a sexually transmitted infection or STI.

Monkeypox

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Credit: CDC

Sometimes a person with monkeypox will feel like they’re coming down with a cold or flu days before their rash develops. These symptoms include headaches, fevers, muscle and body aches, and fatigue. They may also have swollen lymph nodes.

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with the monkeypox lesions or the fluid inside them. The virus can also be spread by breathing in or directly contacting infected respiratory droplets. There have been some cases where monkeypox was transmitted from surfaces that were contaminated with respiratory droplets or fluid from the lesions. (This is another reason we need to keep wearing the masks we’ve been accustomed to during the COVID-19 pandemic and why we should keep washing our hands regularly and cleaning high-touch surfaces.)

“It’s important to know that the risk of acquiring monkeypox through casual contact is extremely low at this time.”

Assoc. Prof. Emily Landon

How long does it take to become sick?

It can take anywhere from five to 21 days for someone to become sick with monkeypox after they’ve been exposed. That’s a long time and makes it especially hard to do contact tracing. The good news: A long incubation period means we can give people treatments or vaccines that can help keep them from getting sick if we’re able to catch it early. That makes it important to contact your doctor or the health department right away if you may have been exposed to monkeypox. The entire illness lasts about two to four weeks.

Monkeypox Virus

Monkeypox belongs to the Poxviridae family of viruses, which includes smallpox. Credit: CDC

How dangerous is monkeypox?

This outbreak involves what’s known as the western African clade, which is less severe and has a fatality rate of about 1%. But many of those cases have occurred in countries where there weren’t many medical resources, which means people likely had worse outcomes than they would have in other regions of the world. No one has died from monkeypox in the U.S. during previous outbreaks.

How is monkeypox treated?

Since monkeypox and smallpox are related, we can use the smallpox vaccine to prevent illness even after someone has been exposed. It’s about 85% protective against monkeypox. (However, someone’s immunity can weaken as they age.) There is also a new vaccine that can be used, but it is in short supply. Antiviral medications, such as cidofovir or tecovirimat, can be used to treat severe cases. Some people may also be treated with immune globulin antibodies if they can’t get other kinds of treatment. Most people don’t require any treatment and get over the infection on their own.

Who is most at risk for monkeypox?

Unlike previous outbreaks, some of the people who are currently being infected with monkeypox are people who identify as men who’ve had sexual contact with men and reported new partners in the last month. However, cases aren’t limited to one sex or sexual orientation, and there are reports of household contacts being infected. This makes it challenging to diagnose monkeypox because doctors may mistake skin lesions for more common infections. There’s good reason to believe other cases may have gone undiagnosed.

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