What is monkeypox?

What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a virus commonly seen in Africa among rodents, mostly rats, mice etc. and it is transmitted primarily from animals to humans.
The virus is a Orthopox virus in the family of the eradicated smallpox virus and with cowpox virus and catpox virus.

How to recognize monkeypox?
The first symptoms of monkeypox are fever, muscle pain, headache and swollen lymph nodes. After this comes the most recognizable symptom, which is a rash with blisters. The rash often starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. The rash can form a scab when it heals, which later falls off. Usually the illness is relatively mild and lasts between two and four weeks. For most, the disease goes away on its own.

How contagious is monkeypox?
You can become infected with the virus when you are in close contact with someone who is sick, but the virus does not appear to be very contagious. People who have been infected with the virus are able to infect others when they have developed blisters and they have broken, but since the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat are also attacked, infection can already occur in fever stage 1-3 days before the skin rash. This can happen in the form of direct mouth contact, coughing and sneezing with the formation of large droplets, so that the infection only occurs within a few meters of distance. When the scabs have fallen off, there is no longer a risk of infecting others with the virus. Those who have been infected, there has been a preponderance of men who have had sexual contact with other men. The appearance of the disease almost simultaneously in many countries corresponds to the incubation period of monkeypox of 5-21 days.

The infection is not due to sexual contact, but close contact with an exposed person, who can be contagious via viruses in the mucous membranes and skin. Precisely at this event, a great many people have gathered and this has given a greater opportunity for infection.

Can monkeypox be prevented?
There have been no specific rules regarding the prevention of infection. Safe sex is encouraged, i.e. avoid sex with people who may have been exposed to infection.

Monkeypox can be prevented with a smallpox vaccine and there are antiviral drugs on the market for other viral infections that have been shown to work against monkeypox in animal experiments, but clinical trials with monkeypox-infected humans are lacking.

What should you do if you develop symptoms of monkeypox?
Self-isolation is only necessary if you yourself develop symptoms of monkeypox, for example fever and later a rash. If you get it, contact your local doctor and ask for their recommandation.

Should you be worried?
Since 1970, monkeypox has caused minor epidemics in several West and Central African countries such as Congo and Nigeria, since it was first described in 1958. None of the epidemics have been extensive, usually only a few hundred cases and they have not spread to the large cities with million populations in the countries concerned, which underlines the disease’s limited contagiousness. Monkeypox with rodents was imported from Gambia to a pet dealer in the USA in 2003, where some people became infected.

The West African variety found in Europe is the mildest form of monkeypox and has a mortality rate of about one percent. The cases that have been in Europe have all been mild, and it is estimated that they will fully recover from the disease if they become infected.

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