Facts Established facts about Monkeypox Virus

Key Facts

  • Monkeypox is a rare disease that occurs primarily in remote parts of Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
  • The monkeypox virus can cause a fatal illness in humans and, although it is similar to human smallpox which has been eradicated, it is much milder.
  • The monkeypox virus is transmitted to people from various wild animals but has limited secondary spread through human-to-human transmission.
  • Typically, case fatality in monkeypox outbreaks has been between 1% and 10%, with most deaths occurring in younger age groups.
  • There is no treatment or vaccine available although prior smallpox vaccination was highly effective in preventing monkeypox as well.

More Facts

  • Monkeypox is a viral disease that produces pox lesions on the skin and is closely related to smallpox but is not nearly as deadly as smallpox was.
  • The history of monkeypox is new (1958), and the first human cases were diagnosed and differentiated from smallpox in the early 1970s.
  • Monkeypox virus causes monkeypox. The majority of cases are transmitted from animals (rodents) to humans by direct contact. Person-to-person transfer, probably by droplets, can occur infrequently.
  • Risk factors for monkeypox include close association with African animals (usually rodents) that have the disease or caring for a patient who has monkeypox.
  • During the first few days, symptoms are nonspecific and include fever, nausea, and malaise. After about four to seven days, lesions (pustules, papules) develop on the face and trunk that ulcerate, crust over, and begin to clear up after about 14-21 days, and lymph nodes enlarge. There may be some scarring.
  • The diagnosis of monkeypox is often made presumptively in Africa by the patient’s history and the exam that shows the pox lesions, however, a definitive diagnosis is made by PCR, ELISA, or Western blotting tests that are usually done by the CDC or some state labs. Definitive diagnosis is important to rule out other possible infectious agents like smallpox.
  • Treatment may consist of immediate vaccination with smallpox vaccine because monkeypox is so closely related to smallpox. Treatment with an antiviral drug or human immune globulin has been done.
  • In general, the prognosis for monkeypox is good to excellent as most patients recover. The prognosis may decrease in immunocompromised patients, and patients with other problems such as malnutrition or lung disease may have a poorer prognosis.
  • Monkeypox is preventable as long as people avoid direct contact with infected animals and people. Vaccination against smallpox seems to afford about an 85% chance of avoiding the infection. There is no commercially available vaccine specifically for monkeypox.
  • Research is ongoing to study antivirals, genetics, and rapid tests for monkeypox.