Many of us have been hearing more about a rare disease known as monkeypox. First identified in 1958, most monkeypox cases have occurred outside of the United States and mostly been related to international travel or importation of animals. However, there has been a recent uptick in cases in the United States. In California, Governor Newsom recently declared a state of emergency in an effort to boost monkeypox vaccination efforts.
The University’s COVID Task Force is monitoring the situation and will provide updates accordingly.
Monkeypox is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus which is related to the smallpox virus. While generally less severe and much less contagious than smallpox, monkeypox can be a serious illness. It spreads from infected humans, animals, and materials contaminated with the virus but primarily through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox symptoms, such as rash and sores.
While it is important to stay alert about any emerging public health outbreaks, the California Department of Public Health currently classifies the risk of getting monkeypox as very low.
Monkeypox spreads primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread through touching materials used by a person with monkeypox that haven’t been cleaned, such as clothing, towels, and bedding. It can also spread by respiratory secretions (talking, coughing, sneezing, breathing) during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact.
Monkeypox may start with symptoms like the flu, including fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. After a few days, a person can develop a rash or sores, which can go through several stages including scabs, before healing. They can also look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms, yet most people will get a rash or sores.
Monkeypox is usually a mild disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks. Certain groups may be at higher risk, including those with weakened immune systems, young children, people with a history of eczema, and those pregnant or breastfeeding.
Infections identified in this most recent strain are rarely fatal. Despite this, symptoms can be extremely painful, and people may have infections or permanent scaring resulting from the rashes and sores.
There are several ways to prevent the spread of monkeypox, including:
If you believe you have been exposed to monkeypox, you should contact your health care provider as soon as possible. Your health care provider may provide testing and/or recommend a vaccine to help prevent infection or decrease the seriousness of the illness.
If you have symptoms, you should contact your health care provider immediately and ideally isolate from others until your symptoms have gone away completely. If you cannot avoid contact with others, you should cover up any sores and wear a mask.