Questions are being asked of an unexpected and small – 250 confirmed cases so far – but fairly concerning outbreak of monkeypox in 16 countries at the end of May 2022, including the U.S. So far, health officials have stated, while the outbreaks are somewhat concerning, we do not need to panic.
However, to address and alleviate concerns of this disease, here are answers to questions many people are asking:
What is Monkeypox and is it a new disease?
Monkeypox is not a new disease as it has been around for 64 years. Interestingly enough, this rare disease does not come from monkeys. Rather, the name came from an isolated case of two monkeys used for research in Africa that were diagnosed in 1958 with the pox-like disease. It remains unknown of the natural reservoir of monkeypox, however, African rodents appear to harbor the virus.
The first case found in a human was in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The majority of cases since that time typically occur in Central and West Africa.
Monkeypox is caused by an infection with the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus that also includes smallpox and cowpox. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
Is monkeypox related to Covid-19?
The answer is no. The two viral diseases are completely different and unrelated.
What signs and symptoms does monkeypox cause?
Monkeypox has a similar resemblance of flu-like symptoms that often start with a fever (when the disease is most contagious), headache, body aches, chills, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash much like chickenpox or smallpox that develops usually within one to three days. The rash appears usually first on the face spreading to other body parts after several days, then scabs over and runs its course usually within seven to fourteen days but can lasts as long as 21 days.
How is monkeypox transmitted?
Close or intimate contact with a person who is infected is how this disease is transmitted. This could mean touching the lesions that form, body fluids, and respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets include an infected person coughing directly in your face, spitting or drooling on you, or through kissing someone with monkeypox. The disease can also be spread by wearing clothing or sleeping on bedsheets of an infected person. However, unlike Covid-19, that is highly transmissible, monkeypox has a less than 10% rate of infection, even within a household of someone with the disease.
Who is most at risk?
Anyone who is living with someone with monkeypox or has had close physical contact with an infected person is at risk.
How deadly is monkeypox?
Fortunately, monkeypox has much lower risk of death than the recent outbreak of Covid-19. Occasionally, it can be deadly, particularly in poor countries with inadequate healthcare. The current strain appears to cause less severe symptoms and has a mortality rate of about one percent.
Are older people who had the smallpox vaccine more protected from monkeypox?
Routine vaccination for smallpox ended in the U.S. in 1972. People age 50 and older would have the best chance of immunity against monkeypox presuming their prior smallpox vaccine still offers protection.
How is monkeypox tested and treated?
Anyone who suspects they might have monkeypox, should see their healthcare provider. Healthcare providers will take a sample of a lesion to be tested at the state level. If the sample is positive for monkeypox, the CDC is contacted to keep track of the number of cases.
Currently, people who have had contact with an infected person or have a suspected case of monkeypox, can be treated by getting the smallpox vaccine, since the two viruses are closely related. When the vaccine is given within four days of exposure, it provides about 85% protection and when given within two weeks after exposure, it may help prevent monkeypox or make symptoms less severe. Another source of treatment for monkeypox is certain antivirals and immunoglobulins.
How can I protect myself from monkeypox?
While the risk of developing monkeypox is still very rare, the CDC has several guidelines for steps to take to prevent infection from monkeypox. These measures from the CDC include the following:
- Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs).
- Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal.
- Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
- Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.