Should You Be Concerned About Monkeypox?

August 5, 2022

The world has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for over two years and now we’re hearing about another viral infection, monkeypox. But what is monkeypox? How is it spread? What kind of complications can it cause? And how often does it cause sepsis?

What Is Monkeypox?

Simply put, monkeypox is a viral infection similar to smallpox. However, while smallpox was very contagious and deadly, monkeypox is not as severe. It is a relatively rare disease, first found in monkeys in 1958 and identified in humans in 1970. It is usually contained within certain countries, but in early May of this year, the virus began spreading to parts of the world that don’t usually see the disease

Monkeypox is not as dangerous as smallpox. It doesn’t spread as easily and doesn’t make people as sick. That being said, like other viral infections, monkeypox can cause secondary (added) bacterial infections – like pneumonia – that can lead to sepsis. The virus has a death rate ranging from 1% to 10% in the countries where it originated, but so far, few deaths have been reported in other parts of the world.

How Monkeypox Spreads

Monkeypox spreads through close contact with someone who has the virus. It usually has to be close, sustained contact. You could get the virus by:

  • Direct contact with an infected person who has skin lesions
  • Direct contact with the body fluids or respiratory secretions of an infected person
  • Sharing personal items that could have body fluid, such as bedding, clothing, utensils, or cups

The virus can also pass on to the fetus during pregnancy.

If infected with monkeypox, you are contagious once you start showing symptoms, and you can still pass on the virus until the rash has healed completely.

Although monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, healthcare professionals have found that the virus is frequently spread through sexual activity because of the skin-to-skin contact and contact with body fluids. Researchers haven’t found any evidence of monkeypox spreading through semen, though.

It can take one to three weeks from exposure before you show symptoms. The illness lasts between two to four weeks.

What to Watch for

The signs and symptoms of monkeypox are like many other viruses, but it seems this current outbreak isn’t as clear-cut. Some people are contracting the infection but are asymptomatic, showing no symptoms.

Usual symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Rash

What makes monkeypox stand out is the rash. Usually, the rash starts on the face and spreads, but with this outbreak, doctors noticed that the rash often begins in the groin, genital, or anus regions. The rash might not spread either.

The spots that make up the rash look like blisters or open wounds, and can be very painful.

Preventing Monkeypox

You can reduce your risk of contracting monkeypox by maintaining safe infection control practices:

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact if you know someone has monkeypox or has been exposed to it, or if there are rash and scabs on their skin
  • Avoid contact with others’ personal items, such as cups, towels, etc.
  • Continue good hand washing hygiene

There are vaccines for people who are at high risk of getting monkeypox. Unlike most vaccines, the monkeypox vaccines can be given after exposure to the virus as long as it is within four days. You could receive a vaccine up to 14 days after exposure, but it will only help decrease the symptoms – it won’t prevent the illness altogether.

If you received a smallpox vaccine when you were a child, chances are you are protected against monkeypox. Researchers found that the smallpox vaccine provides at least 85% protection against monkeypox.

 Possible Complications

There is no treatment for monkeypox. Like the flu, it usually goes away on its own among healthy adults. If you become seriously ill, your doctor may recommend an antiviral medication. However, monkeypox can be quite serious for children and adults who are immunocompromised, so extra caution to prevent the infection is important.

Complications are rare, but they can occur. The most common ones include:

  • Bronchopneumonia
  • Encephalitis
  • Infection in the cornea, in the eye
  • Sepsis

Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you suspect you were in contact with someone who has monkeypox. Or, if your city has pop-up vaccination clinics, see if you can be vaccinated. You should also consider a vaccine if you feel you are at risk of coming in contact with someone with the virus. It’s important to stay home if you do contract monkeypox to prevent spreading it. If you live with others, try to separate yourself in the home for as long as you have symptoms.

If you do get monkeypox, seek medical help immediately if you notice any signs of sepsis: