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Sun River Health Infectious Disease Specialist Shares Tips On Navigating Monkeypox

Aarathi Nagaraja, MD
Aarathi Nagaraja, MD Photo Credit: Sun River Health

With news stories on monkeypox cases rising in New York, especially in New York City, many are concerned about how this disease is spread, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it.

What is monkeypox?

The monkeypox virus belongs to the pox group of viruses. This group also includes smallpox, but it is important to note that monkeypox is not the same as smallpox. Monkeypox also has nothing to do with chickenpox, which is part of a different family of viruses.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The monkeypox virus incubates for between five and 21 days before presenting with fever, chills, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and the characteristic rash. The rash usually starts one to four days from the onset of a fever and can continue for two to three weeks.

The rash usually looks like pimples or blisters inside the mouth and on the face, hands, feet, genitals, chest, or abdomen. The rash goes through different stages before healing completely.

Sometimes, people get a rash first followed by other symptoms. In some rarer cases, it can cause other severe symptoms, such as pneumonia, secondary bacterial infections, brain inflammation, and sepsis.

How long does monkeypox last?

The illness typically lasts between two and four weeks.

Is monkeypox fatal? Can I die from monkeypox?

Monkeypox is very rarely fatal.

How can I avoid monkeypox?

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with the monkeypox rash:
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone with monkeypox
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups with someone with monkeypox
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a sick person
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with sick people

What should I do if I have monkeypox?

A person who is sick with monkeypox should isolate at home until the rash has completely healed and new skin has formed. If you have an active rash or other symptoms, you should be in a separate room or area from other family members and pets when possible.

Is there a vaccine that prevents monkeypox?

Yes. There is an effective vaccine for monkeypox. However, the vaccine is not widely available and is being prioritized for those at risk, including those who have been exposed to someone with a rash through direct skin-to-skin or respiratory contact for a prolonged period of time.

Vaccines are administered as two doses, each four weeks apart. Studies have shown that there is an effective antibody response two weeks after the second vaccine dose.

Is there a medication for monkeypox as treatment?

There is antiviral medication available, but it is given to mitigate symptoms and not as a preventive method. With a limited supply of antivirals, vaccination is key to prevent transmission of the disease.

For more information about monkeypox, including vaccine information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html.