Here’s what you should know about monkeypox

Published August 10, 2022, 8:43 AM

by MB Lifestyle

And how to protect yourself

With the first case of monkeypox recently confirmed in the Philippines, there are many questions and few answers. How do you get it? What do you know if someone in your household gets it?

Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) put together this simple FAQ to help you understand monkeypox, and how you can protect yourself.

How do you get it?

There are two ways you can get monkeypox: through contact with infected humans, or through contact with infected animals.

If someone has monkeypox, you can get infected through:

  • Direct contact with patient’s skin or rash
  • Large respiratory droplet transmission during prolonged face-to-face contact 
  • Contact with patient’s bodily fluids (especially discharges from vesicles), or objects with patient’s bodily fluids (such as bed sheets, clothing, or shared utensils, etc.)
  • Mother-to-child transmission

Contact with infected animals is especially risky in places like Central or West Africa. You can get infected through:

  • Bites or scratches by, or direct contact with the bodily fluids of virus-bearing wild mammals
  • Touching or eating contaminated meat or animal food

What are the symptoms?

Even before the rash appears, you might recognize some of these early symptoms:

  • Rash (may develop pain)
  • Fever
  • Lymphadenectasis (lymph node swelling), a distinctive symptom of monkeypox before developing a rash
  • Intense headache
  • Myalgia (muscle pain), back pain
  • Weakness, tiredness
  • Sore throat  

When you do get a rash, it may appear on the body, including face, palms or soles, chest, genitals, or anus. You may also get lesions in the mouth.

Most patients recover on their own. Studies show that only 13 percent of the patients had to be hospitalized.

What can you do if you get infected with monkeypox?

  • Avoid scratching lesions or touching your own eyes as much to prevent secondary skin infection. Wash your hands with soap.
  • Most patients recover on their own. Studies show that only 13 percent of the patients had to be hospitalized.
  • Medical care is mainly through supportive treatment, such as ensuring adequate hydration and nutrition, pain management, and treatment of associated infections.
  • Do not scratch the rash or vesicles to avoid skin irritation.
  • Antiviral drugs may be used in some severe cases, but this is uncommon.

How can you protect yourself from monkeypox?

If someone around you has monkeypox, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Avoid contact with the patient’s skin, rashes, and bodily fluids (e.g., hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse) until the rashes crust and fall off. Wounds on the skin and discharges from vesicles are highly contagious.
  • Wash the patient’s clothes and bed sheets separately and avoid sharing utensils.
  • Wear gloves and a mask in case of contact. Do not touch your eyes. Wash hands thoroughly with soap afterward.

Is monkeypox deadly?

The mortality rate for monkeypox is one to 10 per cent.

What is more worrying for some people is the possibility of scarring. The blisters caused by monkeypox are relatively large, and therefore could cause more damage to the patient’s skin than chickenpox or Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.

Is there a vaccine?

Many people have been talking about using the smallpox vaccine against monkeypox. Historical data shows that the smallpox vaccine has a maximum protection of 85 percent against monkeypox.

Since the eradication of smallpox in the 1980s, however, smallpox vaccine administration has been stopped worldwide. Even if individuals have had previous vaccinations, there is a chance that the protection of the vaccines declines over time.

Monkeypox, Smallpox, and Chickenpox: How can you tell the difference?

 MonkeypoxSmallpox (eradicated)Chickenpox
Ways of transmissionAnimal-to-human and human to human transmissionHuman-to-human transmissionHuman-to-human transmission
Mode of transmission  Direct contact with the rash Bodily fluids (especially the discharges from vesicles) Respiratory dropletsBodily fluids (especially the discharges from vesicles) Respiratory droplets    Bodily fluids Respiratory droplets
Incubation period5-21 days (7 days in average)7-17 days  10-21 days
Location of rash   Location of lymph nodeSpreading from the face to other parts of the body, mostly on the extremities, especially the palms and soles. During the recent outbreak, more patients got infected through sexual intercourse, so the rash first appeared near the genitals * lymph node swellingMainly on the face and the ends of the extremities          Spreading from the face, scalp to the trunk and extremities, and then to the whole body      
Other distinctive symptoms  Serious lymphadenectasis Vesicle size: 1-2.5 cmVesicle size: 0.2-0.5cmMay cause lymphadenectasis Vesicle size: 0.2-0.4cm  
Duration of symptomsTwo to four weeksTwo to three weeksFour to seven days