Scientists around the world are paying close attention to an unusual increase in the number of cases of monkeypox.
In mid-May 2022, a person in Massachusetts tested positive for the virus after returning from travel to Canada. Since then, there have been 72 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States – including 15 cases in New York. Scientists with the CDC are working to determine the origins of the case and prevent anyone else from the spread of the disease.
Our infectious disease experts at Rochester Regional Health share the basic details of this disease and what people need to know.
First discovered in the 1950s, monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a pox virus. Its name is derived from its initial discovery in a colony of monkeys at a research facility. The first known human case was in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Monkeypox is primarily transmitted from animals to humans. This can be either through close contact between animals and humans, or by eating the meat of an infected animal that has not been thoroughly cooked.
The monkeypox virus can also be transmitted from human to human.
From when a person is infected to when they first begin displaying symptoms, the time range is approximately 7-21 days.
Individuals infected with the virus will experience symptoms such as:
According to the CDC, an infected individual will show signs of a rash within 1-3 days of having a fever. The rash will typically start on the face and spread to other parts of the body.
Researchers describe the rash as initially flat, then becoming raised and filled with fluid that eventually hardens and crusts over before becoming a scab.
Typically, an individual who contracts monkeypox will have an illness lasting 2-4 weeks.
Suspected cases are tested for the virus using a sample taken directly from an individual’s rash. The sample is run through a PCR test to match the viral DNA sequence.
Most commonly, person-to-person transmission happens through close physical contact with a symptomatic individual. This can include:
An infected individual who is pregnant can spread the virus to a fetus via the placenta, or during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact.
Early data collected by the World Health Organization and the CDC suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men have the majority of confirmed cases so far.
The World Health Organization does not consider monkeypox to be a significant concern because it requires close physical contact with infected individuals in order for it to spread.
Roughly 90 percent of monkeypox cases resolve after the infection period. However, some infected individuals can become severely ill or die from the virus.
It is highly unlikely that most people will come into contact with an individual infected with monkeypox. But for healthcare workers or someone who does come into contact, they can help prevent infection by:
If needed, there is several approved antiviral medications available via prescription, as well as a vaccine preventing infection of smallpox and monkeypox that was approved by the FDA in September 2019.
If you have a rash that looks like monkeypox – even if you did not have contact with someone with monkeypox – consult with your primary care provider about what to do next.
With the hard work and dedication of our board-certified physicians, Rochester Regional Health provides clinical and consulting services regarding the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic infectious diseases, along with expertise and leadership in epidemiology and infection control programs.Learn More
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