What is monkeypox? How do you catch it?


Overview :

With the spike in monkeypox cases worldwide, you must be aware of it and how it spreads. Monkeypox is a typically mild viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms, including fever, headaches, rashes, muscle ache, swelling, and back pain. This blog shares all you need to know about monkeypox infections in humans.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a zoonotic orthopoxvirus incidentally causing illness in humans similar to smallpox, though with notably lower mortality. Monkeypox virus was first identified in 1958 when monkeys that were shipped from Singapore to a Denmark research facility fell ill. However, the first confirmed human case of monkeypox was in 1970. It was when the virus was isolated from a child in the DRC or the Democratic Republic of Congo thought to have smallpox.

Monkeypox is from the family of Poxviridae, the genus of orthopoxvirus, and the species of Monkeypox virus. Transmission of the monkeypox virus can occur through contact with skin lesions, bodily fluids, or respiratory droplets of infected animals indirectly or directly via contaminated fomites. Please read this article further to know the ways it can spread.

How do you catch the monkeypox virus?

As discussed earlier in this blog, the monkeypox virus – a double-stranded DNA virus in the genus Orthopoxvirus in the family of Poxviridae causes the monkeypox infection in humans and animals. The monkeypox virus is found primarily in tropical rainforest regions of West and Central Africa. The respiratory transmission route involves large droplets that do not linger in the air or travel far. Therefore, person-to-person spread typically needs prolonged and intimate contact. Most human cases of monkeypox infections are attained from an infected animal, though the transmission route remains unclear.

The monkeypox virus can enter an individual’s body through the respiratory tract, broken skin, or the mucous membranes of the eyes or nose. Once a human is infected with the monkeypox virus, transmission to other humans is possible, with hospital staff and family members at exceptionally high risk of infection. Human-to-human transmission of the monkeypox virus occurs primarily through close contact with an infected person.

There are indications that the transmission of the virus occurs during sexual intercourse. The animal-to-human transmission can occur by a bite or scratch, bush meat preparation, direct contact with the body fluids or lesion material, or indirect contact with the lesion material, such as through contaminated bedding. An animal can infect humans with the monkeypox virus through a bite or by direct contact with the bodily liquids of an infected animal.

The monkeypox virus can also spread from human to human, by respiratory (or airborne) contact or by contact with the bodily liquids of an infected person. Risk factors for monkeypox virus transmission include sharing a room or bed or using the same utensils as the infected person. An increased risk of transmission is associated with several factors, including the introduction of the virus to the oral mucosa.

How would you know if you are infected with monkeypox?

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include headache, fever, myalgia, fatigue, and lymphadenopathy, which is a key differentiating feature of monkeypox from smallpox. After one to two days, mucosal lesions develop in the infected person’s mouth. They are closely followed by skin lesions of the face and extremities (including soles and palms) and are centrifugally concentrated. Infected patients will be contagious at this time.

The lesions start in the oropharynx and then appear on the infected person’s skin. The rash might or might not spread to the rest of the body. The total number of lesions can vary from a small amount to thousands. The lesions evolve in one or two-day increments over the following two to four weeks through vesicular, macular, papular, and pustular phases.

The lesions change synchronously and are characterized by firm, deep-seated, 2 to 10 millimeters in size. Lesions remain in the pustular stage for about five to seven days before the crusts begin to form. Crusts form and desquamate over the next 7 to 14 days, and the condition resolves around three to four weeks after monkeypox symptom onset in most cases. The patients are no longer infectious after all crusts fall off.

How are monkeypox infected patients treated?

There aren’t any specific clinically proven treatments currently for the monkeypox infection. As with most viral illnesses, the treatment for monkeypox is supportive symptom management. However, there are prevention measures that will help prevent an outbreak. The infected person must wear a surgical mask, remain in isolation, and keep lesions covered as much as possible until all the lesion crusts have naturally fallen off and a fresh skin layer has formed.

For people exposed to the monkeypox virus, temperature and symptoms must be monitored twice a day for about 21 days. That is the accepted upper limit of the monkeypox infection incubation period. Infectiousness of monkeypox aligns with the symptom onset. Thus, close contacts or family members of the infected individuals need not isolate while asymptomatic.

Contact between mucous membranes or broken skin and an infected patient’s respiratory droplets, bodily fluids, or scabs is considered a “high risk” exposure. It warrants post-exposure vaccination as soon as possible. According to the CDC (The centers of disease control), post-exposure vaccination within four days of exposure can prevent the disease onset, and vaccination within 14 days can reduce disease severity.

How should you prevent the monkeypox infection?

Because the monkeypox virus is pretty closely linked to the virus that causes smallpox infection, the smallpox vaccine can protect people against getting monkeypox infection. The smallpox vaccine Jynneos has an FDA indication for preventing monkeypox, and an older-generation vaccine (ACAM 3000 by Sanofi Pasteur Biologics Co.) can be used off-label for monkeypox infection.

Other than this, avoid contact with animals that could harbor the monkeypox virus (including sick animals in areas where monkeypox occurs). Also, avoid contact with any materials, like bedding that has been in contact with a sick animal or person. Isolate infected persons from other people who could be at risk for the monkeypox infection.

Final thoughts

Monkeypox is a viral infection that spreads from infected rodents (such as mice, rats, and squirrels). You may catch monkeypox from an infected animal if the animal bites you or you touch its bodily fluids, blood, spots, blisters, or scabs. Protect yourself from the monkeypox virus by following the steps discussed in this blog.

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