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What Is Monkeypox & Should You Be Worried? Here’s What You Need To Know

Cases of the rare disease have been reported in the U.S.

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After dealing with one pandemic for more than two years, the last thing we want to think about is another widespread illness, but unusual cases of monkeypox in the news has some worried. Here’s what you should know.

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What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus that is generally transmitted to humans from animals (including primates and rodents). It was first identified in Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970.

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Monkeypox outbreaks primarily occur in Central and West Africa, though cases have been recorded internationally, including in the U.S. — in 2003, 47 cases were linked to domesticated prairie dogs.

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What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms of illness, says WHO, can begin anytime within 5-21 days of infection, but generally occur within 7-14 days. Early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.

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Within 1 to 3 days of the onset of symptoms, a rash will appear — usually starting on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. These lesions will progress to different forms before they eventually scab over and fall off.

Why are people talking about monkeypox now?

Since May 13, cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., where the virus is not endemic. So far, 92 cases have been confirmed in these regions with additional cases suspected.

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Is monkeypox dangerous?

It can be. According to WHO, cases generally have a 3-6% fatality rate: children and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk. However, so far no deaths have been associated with this latest outbreak and the AP reports that cases appear to be mild.

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How did this start?

It’s unclear. WHO notes that most patients are men who have sex with men (MSM), though whether the latest outbreak spread primarily as a sexually transmitted infection or through close contact is uncertain as well.

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How does monkeypox spread?

Human-to-human transmission of monkeypox can result from close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person, or recently contaminated objects. Any close contact of a patient is at risk.

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Is monkeypox the next Covid?

Dr. David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine specifically told AP “This is not Covid.” According to WHO, respiratory transmission of monkeypox requires prolonged face-to-face contact.

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Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

Effectively, yes, which is another reason the Covid comparison is not apt. The smallpox vaccine is effective against monkeypox. Since smallpox was eradicated in 1980, however, people born since then have likely not been inoculated.

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Is there treatment for monkeypox available?

Yes. According to WHO, an antiviral known as TPOXX, intended to treat smallpox, was approved to treat monkeypox earlier this year. But, fortunately, most cases of monkeypox clear up on their own without treatment.

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How can I protect against monkeypox?

Right now, there are fewer than 10 cases in the U.S. — all connected to travel — so the chances of contracting the virus at this time are quite low.

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Per the CDC, if you know or suspect someone in your home is ill, contact your care provider and limit physical contact with them and with their personal affects (bedsheets, etc). Wear PPE when caring for them and frequently wash your hands.