On the heels of the COVID pandemic, news of a new viral outbreak can be distressing. So, you may find yourself concerned with the rising number of cases of monkeypox in the U.S. and other countries where the virus is historically only rarely found. However, monkeypox is nothing new. This virus, endemic to Central and Western Africa, was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958—although most animal infections in the wild are likely carried by rodents. While the number of cases in the current outbreak is concerning, the risk to the public is relatively low. As of June 13th in the U.S., there were 65 confirmed cases in 18 states.

Symptoms of Monkeypox

It is important to recognize the symptoms of monkeypox, so you can get care as soon as possible if you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus.

One challenge with monkeypox is that the virus has a long incubation period of 7-21 days, which means that symptoms take time to develop. Initial symptoms are like those of the flu: Fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. After a few days, a rash may develop that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. First, lesions may appear as flat discolored areas, then transform to papules or solid raised spots. These then become fluid filled blisters and sores, which eventually harden and become scabs. The total length of the illness is about 2-4 weeks.

If you have a rash that looks like monkeypox, you should reach out to your healthcare provider immediately, even if you don’t think you’ve had close contact with someone who has had the illness already.

Treatment and Prognosis

Unlike COVID, monkeypox has been seen before and has known treatment and prevention options. The smallpox vaccine is about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox and is available in good supply in the U.S., should national distribution become necessary. Most cases of monkeypox do not cause severe illness.

The Bottom Line – Should You Be Worried?

The best way to protect yourself from monkeypox is by following the same healthy practices that you’ve likely been using throughout the pandemic—frequent handwashing, social distancing, and avoiding contact with sick individuals. While the CDC is currently working to assess exactly how infected individuals have been exposed to monkeypox, the risk to the general population remains low.

If you do have symptoms like those described above, MeMD can help you see a doctor right away, from the comfort of home. Set up a virtual visit with one of our providers today.


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