[Dr. Dina News] What’s the story with Monkeypox?

Dr Dina News

Hello friends!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend in the sun!

The overwhelming majority of you requested that I continue to answer the most common question of the week in these newsletters. I am happy to oblige.

This week, we will turn from COVID-19 to another virus.


What is the story with monkeypox?


What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus that causes symptoms similar to but less severe than smallpox. Monkeypox can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread between people.

Most cases of monkeypox are mild and resolve on their own, though some people do get very sick from it.


Where is monkeypox typically found?

Monkeypox is commonly found in west and central Africa. Animals that typically carry monkeypox usually live in tropical rainforests. However, sometimes monkeypox is identified outside of central and west Africa, usually when someone travels out of regions where monkeypox is endemic.


What are the common symptoms of monkeypox?

People infected with monkeypox typically have a fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, back pain, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash. The rash usually comes 1-3 days after the fever starts. The rash can be flat or slightly raised, and the lesions are filled with clear or yellowish fluid. The lesions can crust, dry out and fall off. Some people have a few lesions, and some have thousands. The rash usually concentrates on the face, soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. Other people have lesions around and, in the mouth, face, the genital area.


Can monkeypox cause severe illness?

Symptoms usually last between 2 to 4 weeks and generally resolve without treatment. However, some people will experience medical complications and even death. Newborns, children, and people with immune deficiencies may be at risk of more severe illness and death from monkeypox.

Complications from severe monkeypox include confusion, skin infections, eye infections (which can lead to vision loss), and pneumonia. The reported mortality rate is around 5% of reported cases in endemic countries in recent decades, most frequently in kids or people with weakened immune systems.


Can monkeypox spread from animals to humans?

Monkeypox can spread from infected animals to people. Animals that can have monkeypox include rodents and primates.


Can monkeypox spread from person to person?

People with monkeypox can pass on the illness while they have symptoms. People are contagious for two to four weeks.

Transmission usually occurs through direct contact with an infected individual’s bodily fluid, skin rash or touching items contaminated by fluids or touching the skin or respiratory droplets and possibly aerosols. The scabs are exceptionally infectious. Lesions in the mouth are very contagious, and the virus can spread through saliva.

You can catch monkeypox by sharing bedding, towels, utensils, or clothing contaminated with the virus.

Monkeypox can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the baby through the placenta or childbirth or skin-to-skin contact after birth.

It is unclear whether people without symptoms can spread the disease.


Who can catch monkeypox?

Anyone who has close contact with someone who has monkeypox or an infected animal is at the highest risk of infection.

Vaccination against smallpox is likely to have some protection against monkeypox. However, smallpox vaccination has not been offered since smallpox was eradicated in 1980.

Newborns, children, and people with immune deficiencies may be at risk of more severe illness and death from monkeypox. Health workers are also at higher risk due to exposure.


Can kids get monkeypox?

Young children are more prone to severe monkeypox than adolescents and adults.


Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

There is no currently approved vaccine for monkeypox. People vaccinated against smallpox will also have some protection against monkeypox. People younger than 40 are unlikely to have received a smallpox vaccine. Vaccination against smallpox ended in 1980 when that illness was eradicated.


How do you treat monkeypox?

Symptoms of monkeypox usually resolve on their own without any treatment. The rash can be left to dry or covered with a moist dressing. Non-steroid mouth rinses and eye drops can be used. Vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) may be used for severe cases. An antiviral that was developed for smallpox (tecovirimat) was approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January 2022.


Have there been cases of monkeypox in Canada?

About 30 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Canada so far.

If you think you could have monkeypox – please get in touch with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Monkeypox is contagious and could lead to severe illness in babies, children, and immunocompromised people.

As we learn more, I will update you.

Have a wonderful week, friends.

Dr Dina Kulik - Kids Health

Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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