What to do if you get monkeypox: symptoms, vaccines and treatments

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Over the past few months, monkeypox has spread across the worldprompting government health agencies and hospitals to respond as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease from the same family of viruses as smallpox and can be transmitted to humans and animals. The disease was first discovered in 1958 when two monkeys from an African colony began to develop smallpox-like symptoms. Despite its namesake, the exact source of this disease is not known and various non-human primates can infect people with the virus.

The virus is usually found in tropical environments in central and western Africa where animals carrying the disease live. The 2022 global outbreak has been linked to the resurgence of international travel to countries where the disease is present.

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What are the symptoms?

According to the World Health Organization, symptoms of monkeypox in humans include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that usually dries out the skin. Individuals may experience mild symptoms, but the ability to carry the virus without symptoms is not known at this time. These symptoms usually last between 2 and 4 weeks from the initial exposure.

A Monkeypox lesion on a woman's hand.

A Monkeypox lesion on a woman’s hand.
(CDC/Getty Images)

The WHO notes that signs of a rash usually begin within 24 to 72 hours of the onset of fever and the lesions may have filled with a clear or yellowish fluid. The rash is usually concentrated on the face, palms, and soles of the feet, but can also spread to the genitals, eyes, and mouth.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

Several vaccines used to treat smallpox add protection against monkeypox and those who have been vaccinated against smallpox may also benefit from some protection, according to the WHO. Imvanaex is a vaccine developed for smallpox and was approved in 2019 to help prevent monkeypox, but the drug is not available to most people.

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The WHO notes that vaccines used to treat smallpox in 1980 are unavailable as it became the first disease to be completely eradicated. Health agencies are working to make new smallpox vaccines more widely available to the public.

What are the treatments ?

Most symptoms of monkeypox usually go away on their own without the need for treatment or extensive medical care. However, the WHO and CDC recommend that you avoid scratching or touching sores on your mouth or eyes.

In severe cases, the WHO recommends the use of vaccinal immunoglobulin (VIG), an antiviral designed to treat smallpox that was approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January. Patients should also stay hydrated and eat foods to maintain their nutritional status.

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Cases of monkeypox may be more severe in children, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems.

How many houses?

Since the beginning of the epidemic in 2022, confirmed cases of monkeypox worldwide total at 26,208 confirmed cases in 87 different countries as of August 4, according to data compiled by the CDC. In addition, the number of cases in the United States stands at 6,617 homes in over 48 states.

Recently, California, New York and Illinois, along with several other major municipalities, all declared states of emergency due to monkeypox. In early August, the Biden administration responded by creating a response team led by Robert Fenton, a regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis as deputy coordinator.

“Fenton and Deskalakis will lead the administration’s strategy and operations to combat the current monkeypox outbreak, including equitably increasing the test availability, vaccinations and treatments,” the White House said in a statement.

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However, other states have not declared states of emergency despite rising cases. Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis criticized the three-state Democratic governors who declared emergencies over Monkeypox, saying his government “doesn’t scare people”.

DeSantis claimed heads of state would use the viral outbreak to “restrict your freedom,” adding, “we’ve seen it so much with COVID.”