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Published on June 07, 2022

monkeypox illustration

What Do I Need to Know About Monkeypox?

If you’ve been hearing about monkeypox lately you may have some questions. And worries.

First things first, there is no cause for alarm at this time since confirmed monkeypox cases in the U.S. are still quite rare, said David Basel, MD, Vice President of Avera Medical Group Quality.

Basel answers common questions about the virus.

What Is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It can spread from human to human and between animals and humans. Monkeypox is in the same family and is similar to smallpox. In fact, it’s not related in any way to the more common chickenpox virus, Basel said.

“Monkeypox acts like smallpox and is still pretty rare,” Basel said. “When it comes to the U.S. the risk is pretty small but we’re monitoring it. I don’t think it will ever become as big of a deal as COVID.”

How Does it Spread?

Monkeypox creates blisters or pustules on the body. It spreads with direct contact from the fluid in the blisters. It can also spread if a person comes in contact with clothing that the fluid is on.

Because of this, it spreads slower than an airborne virus such as COVID.

Why Is it in the News?

The first human case was recorded in 1970. Since then, cases have mostly occurred in central and western African countries. Cases in the U.S. are very rare historically.

This spring, cases were confirmed in multiple countries where monkeypox is not typically present — including the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is following confirmed cases in the United States.

It is not clear how people were exposed to monkeypox.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle aches
  • Rash that often starts on palms and hands and spreads across the body
  • Lesions that develop into pustules

The illness usually lasts two to four weeks. The severity of monkeypox is being monitored in the U.S. but it’s still unclear what the typical hospitalization rate is, Basel said.

What Should You Do?

If you develop a rash there is a very small likelihood that it will be monkeypox, Basel said. You may be at increased risk if you traveled to a country where monkeypox is more common or came into contact with someone with a confirmed case.

If you develop a fever and also a rash on the hands and palms that develops lesions or blisters, call your provider or clinic and discuss next steps.

Stay up to date. Learn more about what’s happening in the U.S. from the CDC.

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