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Home / Health Insurance / Articles / Diseases / What is Monkeypox Virus? - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Monkeypox Virus? - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

In July 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). To put things in context, the last time WHO announced a PHEIC was regarding COVID-19! However, monkeypox is not yet a pandemic as of July 2022. Though there’s no need to panic, there's a need to be cautious.

The following sections will highlight things you should know about the virus.

Before you proceed, note that this is a developing story, so please refer to official sources for updated information.




What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus which can be transmitted from animals to humans. Technically, it is known as a ‘viral zoonosis’. Its symptoms are similar to smallpox, but fortunately monkeypox is less severe. The scientific community has been familiar with this virus since 1958, when the virus was found in monkeys that were being used for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox’. The virus was detected in humans in the year 1970. Non-human primates and a wide variety of rodents can be potential hosts of this virus. The natural history of the virus remains uncertain.

Signs and symptoms of the monkeypox virus

Here’s a table highlighting the signs and symptoms of the monkeypox virus. The table has been bifurcated to highlight traditional symptoms (past outbreaks) and new symptoms (new outbreak). Please consult a doctor in case of severe issues.

Past outbreak symptoms New outbreak symptoms (besides old ones)
Fever Rash near genitals. This rash can be painful and also emerge near the pubic region and anus.
Rash after fever (one to three days) One to two bumps
Common rash pattern: macules, papules, vesicles Blister-like bumps, open sores, bumps with pus.
Bumps on the skin (10 to 150) Fever may or may not arise
Fatigue Bumps that appear to be in different stages even though they might be in the same area on the body.
Muscle pain Tenesmus
Chills, Swelling of lymph nodes, Backache, Cough (dry), Sore throat Proctitis

Early stages of monkeypox

The duration between infection and the emergence of symptoms is termed as the incubation period, which for monkeypox is usually in the range of 6 to 13 days. In some cases, this range can be 5 to 21 days.

  • Fever, severe headache, muscle and back pain, and fatigue are common symptoms during the early stages of monkeypox.

  • Swelling of the lymph nodes (medically known as lymphadenopathy) is also observed and is a feature that distinguishes this virus from other diseases with similar symptoms.

  • Skin eruptions commonly initiate during 1 to 3 days from the beginning of fever.

  • The patient’s face and extremities tend to have more rashes than the trunk.

What causes the monkeypox disease?

The cause behind the monkeypox disease is the monkeypox virus. This virus can spread to a human from an infected animal as well as an infected human. Person-to-person spread occurs due to close contact. The virus can spread to you by coming in contact with the following.

  • infected bodily fluids

  • infected skin lesions

  • infected respiratory droplets (prolonged face-to-face contact)

  • infected surfaces of bed sheets or furniture

Also, consuming meat (of an animal infected with the virus) that is not cooked adequately is a possible risk factor for monkeypox transmission as per WHO.

How is monkeypox diagnosed?

Here’s a step-by-step process highlighting monkeypox diagnosis. Note that this is an overview; the exact process can vary on a case-by-case basis.

Step 1: Approach a doctor based on the severity of the symptoms.

Step 2: Clearly state dates pertaining to the onset of fever, rashes, etc.

Step 3: The doctor will understand the symptoms, examine the lesions (if any), and try to rule out similar diseases such as measles, chickenpox, skin infections, etc., or look for monkeypox-specific symptoms. For instance, detection of lymphadenopathy can increase the chances of the disease being diagnosed as monkeypox.

Step 4: A tissue sample from the open sore shall be taken.

Step 5: The sample shall be sent to a laboratory for processing (Polymerase Chain Reaction test).

Step 6: A blood sample might also be sourced to check for antibodies.

Step 7: Test results shall be generated. If there’s an issue with the result, a re-test might be needed.

Treatment for monkeypox

There’s no specific treatment that is undertaken for monkeypox. Currently, the treatment is aimed at relieving the patient’s symptoms. Thus, the doctor might suggest certain medication and nutrition-related care. Home isolation might also be on the cards.

Is monkeypox curable?

As mentioned above, monkeypox’s symptoms can be relieved by medication. As per WHO, an antiviral agent has been licensed to treat the disease. The antiviral agent was developed with regard to treating smallpox.

How to prevent monkeypox

The world is still dealing with COVID-19 variants. Thus, social distancing, undertaking basic hygiene measures, and use of masks is still common practice; and can help, in a way, to avoid monkeypox as well. Besides such measures, here are some tips to avoid monkeypox.

  • Avoid contact with infected humans

  • Avoid contact with infected animals and ill/dead animals

  • Avoid contact with materials (such as bed sheets) used by the infected animal/human

  • Cook meat thoroughly before eating

  • Wear a face mask

  • Wash hands with soap frequently

  • Wear personal protective equipment while caring for someone affected by the virus

Risk factors for monkeypox

The world is still trying to understand the exact nature of the latest monkeypox outbreak. Thus, it is difficult to point out exact risk factors. However, here are some complications associated with the disease. Note that the actual risk can vary on a case-by-case basis.

  • Scarring on face

  • Scarring on arms and legs

  • Vision-related problems

  • Pneumonia

  • Infections

  • Death

Difference between monkeypox and chickenpox

Here’s a table highlighting the key differences between monkeypox and chickenpox.

Parameter Monkeypox Chickenpox
Type of virus Monkeypox belongs to the Orthopoxvirus category. Chickenpox is commonly associated with the Herpes virus.
Contagiousness Comparatively, monkeypox is less contagious than chickenpox. Comparatively, chickenpox is more contagious than monkeypox.
Swollen lymph nodes Swollen lymph nodes are a likely symptom of monkeypox. Swollen lymph nodes are a comparatively less-likely symptom of chickenpox.
Appearance of rashes Rashes can appear at the same time in the case of monkeypox. Rashes can appear in waves in the case of chickenpox.
Time taken for symptoms to stop Usually, it takes about two to four weeks for monkeypox symptoms to subside. Usually, chickenpox symptoms subside within two weeks from the onset of the virus.

Difference between monkeypox and smallpox

Here’s a table highlighting the key differences between monkeypox and smallpox.

Parameter Monkeypox Smallpox
Type of virus Monkeypox belongs to the Orthopoxvirus family. Smallpox is technically classified as belonging to the Orthopoxvirus family, but it is a distinct virus as compared to monkeypox.
Circulation status Monkeypox is currently in circulation in several countries all over the globe. Fortunately, smallpox is not in circulation in any country.
Contagiousness Monkeypox is comparatively less contagious than smallpox. Smallpox was comparatively more contagious than monkeypox.
Severity of symptoms Symptoms of monkeypox are comparatively milder than the symptoms recorded for smallpox. Smallpox’s symptoms were much more severe than monkeypox.

Monkeypox in India

The current monkeypox outbreak is at a multi-country level. Unfortunately, India has also recorded a few monkeypox cases in 2022. However, the situation (as of 11 August 2022) is not alarming. But there’s a need to exercise caution to avoid the spread of the virus. If you feel your symptoms might be like that of monkeypox, you can isolate yourself and engage in a virtual discussion with your doctor to discuss the next steps. Refrain from self-medication and consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Frequently asked questions

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions related to monkeypox. For details, please visit the official World Health Organisation website or consult your doctor. Note that the following answers are as per information available till 11 August 2022.

Is monkeypox a pandemic like COVID-19?


Monkeypox is not yet a pandemic as it has not gone out of control as of now. However, it is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This can be interpreted as an alarm bell warning humans across the globe about an emerging outbreak.

Can a person die because of monkeypox?


Yes, death is a possible outcome of being infected with the virus. It is a rarity but nevertheless a possibility.

Can monkeypox spread from an infected human to an animal like a house pet?


Cases of animals being infected due to a human have not yet been registered. However, such a case is a potential risk. Thus, those who are affected by this virus should avoid contact with house pets.

Who is at a higher risk of monkeypox?


People who are immunocompromised are at a higher risk of monkeypox. Pregnant women, new-born infants, and young children are also vulnerable.

Are swollen lymph nodes a key indicator of monkeypox?


Yes, swollen lymph nodes are a distinct feature of the virus.

Do we have a vaccine for monkeypox?


As per the WHO website, a vaccine has been approved to prevent the virus.

Is monkeypox restricted to a country, or has it spread to many countries?


Monkeypox is currently being reported as a multi-country outbreak.

Is a person previously affected by COVID-19 at a higher risk of being infected with monkeypox?


There’s no conclusive research to confirm or deny whether a person previously affected by COVID-19 is at a higher risk of being infected with monkeypox.

I had chickenpox when I was a child. Can I still get monkeypox?


Yes, there’s no correlation between being infected with chickenpox during childhood and the possibility of being infected with monkeypox in adulthood.

Is monkeypox more severe than COVID-19?


No, compared to COVID-19, monkeypox is less severe. Note that severity can vary from person to person.

I think I might have monkeypox; what should I do?


If you think you have monkeypox, then isolate yourself (like you would in the case of COVID-19) and consult a doctor virtually immediately.

How long do monkeypox symptoms commonly last?


Monkeypox symptoms are known to commonly last in the range of two weeks to a month.

Is tiredness a symptom of monkeypox?


Yes, tiredness is a symptom of monkeypox. However, it is a common symptom of multiple health issues. Thus, discuss the same with your doctor before reaching any conclusion.

Can I catch the monkeypox virus if I use a towel that was used by a monkeypox-infected patient?


Monkeypox can spread through the infected fabric; thus, you might catch the virus if you use a towel (unwashed) used by a monkey-pox infected patient.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. As this content piece is not vetted by a medical professional, please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.



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