Monkeypox: Facts to Help You Stay Safe
You’ve seen the headlines. You might’ve even heard questions about it from friends. As case numbers in the U.S. grow, so too has the coverage of monkeypox.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the outbreak in the United States has affected people in nearly every state.
How serious is monkeypox? And could it become a pandemic with consequences as far-reaching as what we’ve seen with the coronavirus?
The answers are still developing, but here’s what we know that can help you stay safe.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox sounds like another ailment you’ve probably heard of (and perhaps experienced) – chickenpox. But the two conditions aren’t related.
In fact, the monkeypox virus is more closely related to smallpox, but its symptoms are usually much less severe.
Despite the new media attention, monkeypox has actually been around for a while. Scientists discovered it in lab monkeys in the 1950s. It’s been found in other primates and some rodents, mostly in Central and West Africa. Until now, most human outbreaks of the disease had been concentrated in the same places.
That changed two months ago. Starting in May, health officials began reporting significant clusters of monkeypox outside of Africa. By the end of July, the disease had affected nearly 5,000 people in the United States. The World Health Organization has declared the disease a global health emergency.
Symptoms of monkeypox
The first few days of a monkeypox infection start with symptoms that could be mistaken for something else. These include headache, fever, chills, back pain, muscle pain, fatigue and swelling of the lymph nodes.
A few days after the fever begins, a rash will begin to develop – though some patients may see the rash without experiencing prior symptoms. The rash usually starts on a person’s face and then spreads to their extremities.
The monkeypox rash starts as flat, round lesions that eventually become slightly raised bumps filled with clear fluid. Those lesions then grow and become filled with yellow fluid. The large lesions crust over, scab and fall off. All of this typically happens in two to four weeks, but the process can last longer.
In addition the rash, monkeypox can have serious complications, including pneumonia, sepsis (blood infection), encephalitis (brain inflammation) and cornea infections that can affect a person’s vision.
How monkeypox spreads
The monkeypox virus can be transmitted as soon as person’s symptoms start. It is contagious until the rash has healed and a fresh layer of skin has developed.
Person-to-person transmission of monkeypox can happen in a few different ways:
- Direct contact with a patient’s rash, scabs, or fluids
- Touching items that have previously touched an infected person’s rash, scabs, or bodily fluids
- Respiratory secretions during face-to-face or intimate contact, such as cuddling, kissing or sex.
- Pregnancy in which mothers can transmit the disease through the placenta
Monkeypox can also spread if a person is bitten or scratched by an infected animal or if someone eats the meat of an infected animal.
The monkeypox virus typically has an incubation period of about one to two weeks, but in some cases it could be 4 to 21 days.
How monkeypox is treated
If you have come in contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox, or if you suspect you might have it yourself, it’s important you get tested as soon as possible. Monkeypox can be determined through a lab test and those testing capabilities are scaling up as cases rise.
At this time, monkeypox testing is not available at CareSpot or MedPost urgent care centers. But providers there can evaluate your symptoms and determine if you need to go to an emergency room for testing.
There are currently no treatments for monkeypox, but doctors suggest rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medications to treat the disease’s symptoms.
Vaccinations may offer a key tool to fight the spread of monkeypox. Because of its similarities to smallpox, doctors may be able to use similar anitvirals and vaccines to treat and protect patients, especially those with compromised immune systems or other pre-existing health conditions.
If your symptoms turn out to be something other than monkeypox, our urgent care teams can often help treat that condition to get you back to your usual routine. Most locations are open seven days a week with extended hours and no appointments necessary, so come visit us today!