The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

5 things you should know about monkeypox

5 things you should know about monkeypox

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. First discovered in 1958, it was named after outbreaks in colonies of monkeys being kept for research. The first human case was documented in 1970. The first case in the United States was documented in 2003, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illness begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. Within a few days after a fever, the patient develops a rash and lesions. The illness typically lasts two to four weeks.

Where is it being found? Who is impacted?

Scientists at the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are collaborating on an investigation of  a monkeypox case in a Massachusetts resident, confirmed May 18, who had recently traveled to Canada. There also are four other suspected cases in the U.S.

The CDC is also tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox that have been reported recently in dozen European countries, along with Australia, Canada and Israel. 

It's not clear how people in those clusters were exposed to monkeypox but cases have included individuals who self-identify as men who have sex with men.

Is the disease dangerous, and how does it spread?

Monkeypox virus transmission can occur when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal or human, or with materials contaminated with the virus. Person-to-person transmission is believed to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets, which generally can't travel more than a few feet. So prolonged face-to-face contact is necessary to make this happen. Transmission also can happen after direct contact with body fluids or lesion material or indirect contact with lesion material on clothing or bedding.

Is there a cure for the disease?

There are currently no proven, safe treatments for monkeypox, though most cases are mild. To control outbreaks, doctors use the smallpox vaccine, antiviral medicine and a medicine known as vaccinia immune globulin or VIG.

Should people be worried about the disease?

"The risk is low to the general public," said Dr. Raghav Tirupathi, medical director of Infection Prevention for WellSpan Chambersburg and WellSpan Waynesboro hospitals. "We are closely monitoring the situation as it evolves across the country. Thankfully we do not currently have any cases locally at this time."