By Travaughn Baker-Johnson, CIC
Director of Infection Control
Emergency Hospital Systems
As cases of monkeypox continue to rise, it is necessary to keep informed about this disease that could affect anyone. According to the most recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US has recorded more than 18,000 cases, of those cases, 1,600 are in Texas
EHS Director of Infectious Control Travaughn Baker-Johnson, CIC explains more about this rare and serious disease in this article.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as cowpox, and variola virus; the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
Signs and Symptoms of Monkeypox
People with monkeypox usually get a rash that will go through several stages including pimples/blisters, which can be painful or itchy, before becoming scabs and healing. The rash can appear on various areas of the body including hands, feet, chest, face, mouth, and genitals. Other symptoms include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes exhaustion, muscle/back aches, headache, and respiratory symptoms; note these symptoms are not specific to monkeypox and are common in most viral infections. You may or may not experience all of these symptoms. Some people have flu-like symptoms followed by a rash, some experience the rash first followed by other symptoms, while others may just experience the rash alone.
How Monkeypox Spreads
Monkeypox can be spread through close personal contact with someone who is infected with the virus, often through skin-to-skin contact. This also includes direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from an infected person. Touching of surfaces, objects and fabrics; such as clothing, bedding, or towels used by someone with monkeypox also poses a significant risk of infection. Monkeypox can also be spread through respiratory secretions through droplet particles. It is also possible to get monkeypox from infected animals though bites, scratches, and by preparing or eating meat from the infected animal.
How long do monkeypox symptoms last?
The typical incubation period for Monkeypox is usually 1-2 weeks but symptoms may take up to 3 weeks to appear. Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms have started until all lesions have healed, all scabs have fallen off, AND a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Prevention: Protecting you and your Family
Data from the current monkeypox outbreak suggests that men who have sex with men make up most of the cases. However, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who has been in close, personal contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.
CDC is recommending taking preventive steps and being vaccinated if you were exposed to monkeypox or are at higher risk of being exposed to monkeypox.
Recommendation steps include:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Wash your hands often.
According to the CDC, the preferred vaccine to protect against monkeypox is JYNNEOS, which is a two-dose vaccine. It takes 14 days after getting the second dose of JYNNEOS for its immune protection to reach its maximum.
The ACAM2000 vaccine may be an alternative to JYNNEOS. ACAM2000 is a single-dose vaccine, and it takes four weeks after vaccination for its immune protection to reach its maximum. However, it has the potential for more side effects and adverse events than JYNNEOS. It is not recommended for people with severely weakened immune systems and several other conditions.
Consult your healthcare provider to see if you should get vaccinated against monkeypox.