CLEVELAND – The World Health Organization recently declared monkeypox a global public health emergency – with cases being reported in many different countries, including here in the United States.
So what exactly is the virus, and how does it spread?
“Monkeypox is a virus that is in the same family as smallpox. It can be transmitted a number of different ways but most commonly it’s from skin-to-skin contact,” explained Kristin Englund, MD, infectious disease specialist for Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Englund said monkeypox, which is rarely fatal, can also be transmitted through clothing, sheets and towels that have been used by a person who is infected.
The risk of contracting the virus by touching a contaminated surface is low.
Common symptoms initially include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue and muscle aches, followed by a rash which eventually turns into lesions.
Dr. Englund said monkeypox can last anywhere between four and six weeks and will typically resolve on its own. However, there is medication available.
The United States has also started distributing a vaccine for the virus, which will be given to those who have already been exposed or are considered high-risk.
“The monkeypox vaccine is recommended to be a series of two vaccines given four weeks apart. We’re certainly going to want to follow up with those, but right now our biggest concern is making sure that those at highest risk get that first dose of vaccine,” Dr. Englund noted.
If you suspect you have been exposed to monkeypox, you should avoid close contact with anyone and self-isolate until you can consult with your physician for further guidance.