Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic, an infectious disease transmitted to humans from animals. Once infected, a person can infect other people. The monkeypox virus symptoms are similar to those seen in patients who have experienced smallpox. However, unlike smallpox, the virus is less contagious, and the symptoms are less likely to be fatal. In past years, the virus mostly affected people who lived in different parts of central and western Africa. As of today, the virus has spread to different continents worldwide.
Signs And Symptoms
The first signs of monkeypox are flu-like symptoms and a rash on or near the genital area. You may experience a rash on the testicles, labia, penis, vagina or anus. They could also appear on other areas like the face, mouth, chest, feet or hands. The flu-like symptoms include:
- Muscle ache and backache.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Respiratory problems such as sore throat, nasal congestion or cough.
You may experience some of the symptoms or all of them. In terms of the early signs, people experience them differently as well. Once infected, you could get the rash before the flu-like symptoms or vice versa. You could as well only have the rash without the flu-like symptoms.
Monkeypox symptoms usually start three weeks after infection. If you get the flu-like symptoms first, then the rash will likely occur a few days later. The rash often starts as flat, red bumps, which can be painful. The bumps then turn to pus-filled blisters, and after a while, the blisters crust over and fall off.
Monkeypox is mainly transmitted through close contact. The virus spreads once you come into contact with an animal or a person who has been infected. Animal hosts include Gambian pouched rats, dormice, tree squirrels, different species of monkeys and other non-human primates. The transmission from animals to humans occurs through scratches, bites or direct contact with an infected animal’s blood.
The spread from one person to another is less common; however, it occurs when you come into contact with sores, rashes or body fluids from a person with the virus. You can also get monkeypox by touching materials like beddings, towels or clothes used by an infected person.
Intimate contact forms like kissing, cuddling, hugging, and sex can also increase the risk of contracting the virus. However, scientists are still researching to conclude whether the virus can be transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids.
Monkeypox can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy through the placenta.
Monkeypox and smallpox are in the same family of viruses; therefore, a vaccine or antiviral drug developed for smallpox may be used to help to prevent you from contracting the virus. You can also avoid getting infected by:
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using a hand sanitiser.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are touched frequently.
- Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose when in public places.
- Avoiding close contact with people who show symptoms of the virus.
- Ensuring that you engage in safe sex by using condoms.
- Avoiding contact with infected animals, especially dead ones.
- Using protective equipment while caring for people who have been infected.
- Making sure you thoroughly cook foods that contain animal meat parts.
There is no treatment for the monkeypox virus at the moment; however, the smallpox vaccine and antiviral drugs can also be used for treatment purposes. In most cases, people who have been infected recover fully within 2-4 weeks without medical treatment. However, if you notice that you are experiencing the symptoms of the virus, it is best to seek medical attention. Your healthcare provider can assess and advise on the necessary course of action.
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