Monkeypox: 5 Things You Should Know

Lab test for monkey pox

June 16, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Jerry Zuckerman, M.D.

In a world so accustomed to the impact surrounding a new virus, the rising anxiety of monkeypox is leaving many wondering, what is it and should I be worried? 

The monkeypox virus is a part of a larger family of viruses, including smallpox and cowpox. Infection with monkeypox is identified by a characteristic rash that often begins on the face and spreads through the rest of the body. 

Human cases have been reported in several central and west African countries. The majority of occurrences of monkeypox outside of Africa are linked to exposure during international travel or contaminated imported animals. 

Beginning in May 2022 cases were identified in England and Europe that did not have typical exposure links. Since then over 2,000 cases have been reported in over 33 countries including 84 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the United States. 

“Although risk to the general public is currently low, it is important to be aware of the signs of the virus, as diagnosis is crucial to prevent further spreading and serious outcomes,” says Jerry Zuckerman, M.D., vice president of infection prevention and control at Hackensack Meridian Health

What are the symptoms? 

Beginning signs of the illness include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Typically within one to three days after a fever first appears, the infected patient develops a rash that usually begins on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. The progression of these infected lesions usually occurs in stages before scabbing and falling off.

Monkeypox can last for approximately two to four weeks. 

How it spreads 

Monkeypox can spread when a person comes into close physical contact with an infected person, animal, or materials that have been contaminated such as clothing, bedding or surfaces. The primary source of transmission is direct contact with infectious sores, scabs or body fluids. 

Several forms of human contact have been traced to the recent spread of the virus:

  • Intimate sexual contact such as oral, anal and vaginal sex
  • Physical contact such as hugging, massaging, kissing or talking closely
  • Face-to-face contact such as respiratory droplets or oral fluids 

Spreading can occur from the time symptoms begin until all sores have healed and a new layer of skin has formed. 

How to get tested

If monkeypox is suspected, seek medical care immediately. A health care professional will evaluate and assess you for other more common diseases such as chickenpox.  Testing for monkeypox may be performed after consulting with the Department of Health. 

What medications and vaccines exist for monkeypox

There is no specific treatment approved for monkeypox virus infections at this time. The infection usually resolves over weeks and treatment is provided to alleviate any symptoms. For select cases, certain antiviral medications may be prescribed. Vaccination may be offered to close contacts of monkeypox cases. These vaccines may help prevent monkeypox developing in the exposed individual.   

How to stay safe and aware

High-risk transmission situations to be aware of include but are not limited to:

  • Contact with someone who had a rash that looks like monkeypox or was diagnosed with confirmed/probable monkeypox
  • Skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social setting who is experiencing monkeypox symptoms
  • International travel to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox
  • Contact with a dead or live wild animal or exotic pet that exists only in Africa, or a product derived from such animals (game meat, creams, lotions, etc.)

If a rash forms that resembles monkeypox, you should immediately reach out to seek medical assistance, even if you were not knowingly exposed to someone with monkeypox. 

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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