What is monkeypox and how it spreads; know symptoms from expert

May 12, 2022 12:56 PM IST

Monkeypox, a small pox-like viral zoonotic infection is making news after UK reported its first case of human infection. Here's all you want to know about the disease.

Monkeypox, the viral zoonotic infection, a milder cousin of small pox is making news nowadays after UK reported the first case of human infection with the virus. The human transmission of the virus is more common in Africa and it spreads when humans come into direct contact with the infected animals. The disease is not severe in most of the cases and symptoms typically last for 14-21 days. (Also read: Tomato flu detected in Kerala: What is the virus, its symptoms| Know here)

At the outset a patient infected with monkeypox will have symptoms like fever, headache, chills, body ache, exhaustion.(WHO)
At the outset a patient infected with monkeypox will have symptoms like fever, headache, chills, body ache, exhaustion.(WHO)

At the outset a patient infected with monkeypox will have symptoms like fever, headache, chills, body ache, exhaustion and after than a painful rash or open sores might appear on face first and then on other body parts. One should avoid coming into close contact with skin lesions of the infected person, and the clothes, objects and beddings used by them.

"A viral zoonotic infection, mimicking small pox (although very mild in comparison), monkeypox is a rare disease. Monkeypoxvirus is classified in the category of orthopox viridae. Although monkeypox virus was named after the animal from which it was originally isolated, rodents are the primary viral reservoir," says Dr Charu Dutt Arora, Consultant Physician and Infectious Disease Specialist, Head, Ameri Health, Asian Hospital, Faridabad.

Symptoms of monkeypox

- Monkeypox virus in human is characterised by a systemic illness and vesicular rash similar to those of Variola.

- The clinical presentation of monkey pox can be oftenly confused with that of the more common varicella zoster virus infection.

- Compared with the lesions of the herpes virus infection, monkeypox lesions tend to be more uniform, diffuse and peripheral in distribution.

- Patients present with fever, chills, muscle pain, fatigue, headache, rash and lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes).

- The rash generally presents after one to three days from exposure. It starts from the face and then spread to other parts of the body such as palms and soles.

How monkepox virus spreads

As per the CDC, there are three ways of transmission of monkeypox virus:

1. Animal to human: When humans get in contact with infected animal via broken skin, bites, scratches or even infected animals' body fluids. Consuming undercooked meat is also a possibility of transmission.

2. Human to human: It is extremely rare, but possible through airdroplet media.

3. It can be transmitted via coming in contact of infected items such as beddings and linen of infected patients.


"Clinical presentation, swollen lymph nodes, any history of contact and classical rash is enough for your doctor to make the diagnosis. However, the gold standard are biopsy of the lymph node and a blood test to see the antibodies against the virus," says Dr Arora.


Dr Charu Dutt Arora says that it is studied that the vaccinia vaccine (for Small Pox) is effective in preventing monkeypox infections as well. However, this vaccine is not given to everyone now. Hence, prevention strategies include decreasing contact with infected animals and limiting person to person spread.

⁃ Hand hygiene is the most important part of prevention

⁃ Do not consume undercooked meat

⁃ Avoid contact with infected animals

⁃ Avoid contact with infected material (beddings and linens) of the patients positive for this virus.

⁃ Using PPE while taking care of the infected or positive patients.

Management and Treatment

There is no proven treatment against monkeypox virus. Generally, symptomatic care with fluids and antipyretics is helpful for this disease. "A monitoring course of 21 days by your doctor is advised. Monkeypox takes 2-4 weeks to run its entire duration of symptoms. Although milder than small pox, the fatality rate is close to 10%. Hence, it is advisable to seek medical support if any symptoms are noticed," concludes Dr Charu Dutt Arora.

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