Monkeypox is an illness caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a viral zoonotic infection, meaning that it can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?
Monkeypox can cause a range of signs and symptoms. While some people have mild symptoms, others may develop more serious symptoms and need care in a health facility. Those at higher risk for severe disease or complications include people who are pregnant, children and persons that are immunocompromised.
The most common symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. This is followed or accompanied by the development of a rash which can last for two to three weeks. The rash can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body. The number of lesions can range from one to several thousand. Lesions begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath.
Symptoms typically last two to three weeks and usually go away on their own or with supportive care, such as medication for pain or fever. People remain infectious until all of the lesions have crusted over, the scabs fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.
Anyone who has symptoms that could be monkeypox or who has been in contact with someone who has monkeypox should call or visit a health care provider and seek their advice.
Can people get seriously ill or die from moneypox?
In most cases, the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks. However, in some people, an infection can lead to medical complications and even death. Newborn babies, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.
Complications from monkeypox include secondary skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye problems. In the past, between 1% to 10% of people with monkeypox have died. It is important to note that death rates in different settings may differ due to a number of factors, such as access to health care. These figures may be an overestimate because surveillance for monkeypox has generally been limited in the past. In the newly affected countries where the current outbreak is taking place, there have been no deaths to date.
How does monkeypox spread from person to person?
Monkeypox spreads from person to person through close contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash, including through face-to-face, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-skin contact, including sexual contact. We are still learning about how long people with monkeypox are infectious for, but generally they are considered infectious until all of their lesions have crusted over, the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.
Environments can become contaminated with the monkeypox virus, for example when an infectious person touches clothing, bedding, towels, objects, electronics and surfaces. Someone else who touches these items can then become infected. It is also possible to become infected from breathing in skin flakes or virus from clothing, bedding or towels. This is known as fomite transmission.
Ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth can be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through direct contact with the mouth, respiratory droplets and possibly through short-range aerosols. Possible mechanisms of transmission through the air for monkeypox are not yet well understood and studies are underway to learn more.
The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the fetus, after birth through skin-to-skin contact, or from a parent with monkeypox to an infant or child during close contact.
Although asymptomatic infection has been reported, it is not clear whether people without any symptoms can spread the disease or whether it can spread through other bodily fluids. Pieces of DNA from the monkeypox virus have been found in semen, but it is not yet known whether infection can spread through semen, vaginal fluids, amniotic fluids, breastmilk or blood. Research is underway to find out more about whether people can spread monkeypox through the exchange of these fluids during and after symptomatic infection.
How does monkeypox spread from animal to humans?
Monkeypox can spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Animal hosts include rodents and primates. The risk of catching monkeypox from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are sick or dead (including their meat and blood). In endemic countries where animals carry monkeypox, any foods containing animal meat or parts should be cooked thoroughly before eating.
How can I protect myself or others from catching monkeypox?
Reduce your risk of catching monkeypox by limiting close contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox, or with animals who could be infected. Clean and disinfect environments that could have been contaminated with the virus from someone who is infectious regularly. Keep yourself informed about monkeypox in your area and have open conversations with those you come into close contact (especially sexual contact) with about any symptoms you or they may have.
If you think you might have monkeypox, you can act to protect others by seeking medical advice and isolating from others until have been evaluated and tested. If you have probable or confirmed monkeypox, you should isolate from others until all of your lesions have crusted over, the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath. This will stop you from passing on the virus to others. Get advice from your health worker on whether you should isolate at home or in a health facility. Until more is understood about transmission through sexual fluids, use condoms as a precaution whilst having sexual contact for 12 weeks after you have recovered.
Is there a vaccine for moneypox?
Yes. A vaccine was recently approved for preventing monkeypox. Some countries are recommending vaccination for persons at risk. Many years of research have led to development of newer and safer vaccines for an eradicated disease called smallpox, which may also be useful for monkeypox. One of these has been approved for prevention of monkeypox. Only people who are at risk (for example someone who has been a close contact of someone who has monkeypox) should be considered for vaccination. Mass vaccination is not recommended at this time.
While the smallpox vaccine was shown to be protective against monkeypox in the past, current data on the effectiveness of newer smallpox/monkeypox vaccines in the prevention of monkeypox in clinical practice and in field settings are limited. Studying the use of vaccines for monkeypox wherever they are used will allow for rapid generation of additional information on the effectiveness of these vaccines in different settings.
What is WHO’s response to stigmatising messages circulating on line in relation to moneypox?
We have seen messages stigmatising certain groups of people around this outbreak of monkeypox. We want to make it very clear that this is not right. First of all, anyone who has close physical contact of any kind with someone who has monkeypox is at risk, regardless of who they are, what they do, who they have sex with or any other factor. Secondly, stigmatising people because of an illness or a disease is unacceptable. Stigma is only likely to make things worse and stop us from ending this outbreak as fast as we can. We need to all pull together to support anyone who has been infected or who is helping to take care of people who are unwell. We know how to stop this disease, and how we can all protect ourselves and others. Stigma and discrimination is never ok, and it is not ok in relation to this outbreak. We are all in this together. (www.who.int)