Monkeypox is an infection caused by the monkeypox virus. It is common in some African countries, especially Western and Central Africa. An international outbreak began in 2022, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a public health emergency since the virus had spread to many countries through close contact. However, the risk of catching it is low, and the full extent and impact remain unclear. Monkeypox testing is key to helping slow the spread of the virus. Testing for monkeypox is available here at the Los Angeles-based office of Susan A. Baker, MD. Our staff take relevant safety measures and procedures while handling samples. Here is some essential information about monkeypox.
What Is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare contagious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. The virus is part of the same family as the virus that causes smallpox, but it is not the same as smallpox. Monkeypox has similar symptoms to smallpox but milder. It is rarely fatal and not related to chicken pox.
Monkeypox virus can spread from animals to people and from person to person. The monkeypox virus causes flu-like symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.
The virus was discovered in 1985 when two outbreaks within colonies of monkeys were kept for research erupted. This is how the virus got its name “monkeypox”. The source of monkeypox remains unknown. Typically, the virus affects rodents (rats or mice) and nonhuman primates such as monkeys, and people can also be infected.
Signs and Symptoms of Monkeypox
Once exposed to the virus, you may notice symptoms for 5 to 21 days. Symptoms may last 2 to 4 weeks. Early signs of monkeypox include flu-like symptoms such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
A rash may develop after a few days and goes through several stages, lasting 2 to 4 weeks. It starts as painful, flat, itchy, and red bumps. The bumps turn into blisters filled with pus. They then crust and fall off. The rash can develop on the feet, chest, mouth, face and hands or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole).
You may experience flu-like symptoms before the rash or vice versa or only experience a rash. You may also not develop all the signs. Most cases of the current 2022 outbreak are not following the usual symptom pattern, with typical symptoms including no swollen lymph nodes, a few lesions, low fever or other illness signs. You may have monkeypox and be unaware. Even if you are asymptomatic, you can still spread the virus due to close person-to-person contact. In fact, you can spread it to others from the beginning of your symptoms until your rash is fully healed and a fresh skin layer has formed.
If you have a new, unexplained rash or other symptoms, avoid close contact, intimacy, or sex with anyone until you seek medical attention. The CDC continuously monitors monkeypox for new or changing information regarding transmission.
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, it is imperative to get checked out, and Dr. Baker can assess you for possible testing. Cover up any lesions and wear a mask while going for possible testing. A combination of factors can determine if you can get testing, such as your signs and symptoms, exposure to someone who has monkeypox and your travel history. Here is what to expect during testing:
- Fill out paperwork before getting tested
- Swabs are rubbed from different lesions of your rash to get a specimen
- The specimens are taken to the lab for testing
- Results are usually out in a few days
- Isolate at home as you await your test results, and be cautious not to spread the virus to others
Monkeypox infection can be similar to some infectious diseases, such as chickenpox or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhoea or herpes. It is, therefore, crucial that you get tested if you notice any symptoms.
Once your results are out, and they are positive for monkeypox, it is crucial to protect yourself and others until you are fully recovered. If they are negative, it means you do not have monkeypox, and you should continue to take care of yourself. Inconclusive test results indicate that the test has to be repeated.
Monkeypox has no specific treatment. However, since it is in the same family as smallpox, certain medications and vaccines can be used to prevent monkeypox.
How Do You Catch Monkeypox?
Monkeypox can be passed on from one person to another through:
- Direct contact with monkeypox scabs, rashes, blisters, or bodily fluids. This also includes sexual contact, cuddling, kissing or handholding, sneezes and coughs of an infected person
- Getting in contact with sheets, clothes, towels, blankets or other materials used by someone with monkeypox
- A pregnant woman who is infected can pass the virus along to a fetus
Monkeypox can be spread from animal to person in the following ways:
- Direct contact with body fluids, fur skin, blood, scabs, or pox lesions (sores) of animals with the monkeypox virus
- Wild game cooked for food
- Products made of infected animals
- Animal bites or scratches
A smallpox vaccine can help protect against monkeypox. To prevent monkeypox, you can do the following:
- Avoid contact with people who might be infected with the monkeypox virus
- Ensure you thoroughly cook all foods that contain animal meat or products
- Always wash your hands with soap and water frequently
- Avoid contact with bedding, clothes, and other materials contaminated with the monkeypox virus
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like door knobs
- If you are infected with the virus, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose when around others
- Practice safe sexual intercourse by using condoms and dental dams
- If you are caring for a person who is infected with the monkeypox virus, use personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Do not come into contact with infected animals, including dead or sick ones
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider?
Seek medical attention if you develop the following symptoms:
- Have been in direct or close contact with an infected person
- Develop new sores or a rash
- Have a fever, feel sick with aches or swollen lymph nodes
Go to the emergency room if you develop the following symptoms:
- Difficulty speaking or moving
- Loss of consciousness
- Difficulty breathing
- Are confused or can’t think clearly
- New or worsening chest pain
- Stiff neck
Please contact Dr. Susan A. Baker today or request an appointment online to learn more about this service.