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Q: What is monkeypox and should we be concerned?

Monkeypox is a rare disease endemic to Central and West Africa caused by the Orthopoxvirus. It was first discovered in the 1950s. An outbreak of Monkeypox cases was noted in May 2022 in the United Kingdom and since that time has resulted in an additional 1,872 confirmed cases worldwide with 65 cases in the United States including 3 probable cases and 2 laboratory confirmed cases in Hawaii.

Monkeypox transmission occurs when a person contracts the virus from an animal, human or materials (clothing included) contaminated with the virus. And while called Monkeypox, it is predominantly spread by rodents. The virus can enter the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract or the mucous membranes. Incubation in the body is typically 7-14 days after exposure though can range from 5-21 days following exposure. If you were exposed, you will first develop flu-like symptoms and then develop a rash.

Currently, there is no proven treatment for a monkeypox virus infection. However, antivirals developed for use in patients with smallpox have shown some efficacy at protecting against monkeypox.

Experts continue to study the disease. Right now for us, prevention is key:

  • Avoid contact with commonly infected animals, whether live or dead. This includes rodents such as rats and squirrels, or monkeys and apes.
  • Practice strict hand hygiene
  • Don’t share bedding with someone who may be infected
  • For healthcare workers, we have specific protocols for treatment of suspected or confirmed disease including proper PPE usage.

And remember, get your information and updates from reliable sources like the CDC.