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What is Monkeypox?

Mississauga, ON

health, medicine, monkeypox, disease, healthcare, biology, outbreak
monkeypox disease

Monkeypox is a rare viral zoonosis, originally transmitted from animals to humans. It is caused by an infection with the monkeypox virus which belongs to the genus Orthopoxvirus. It is commonly found in endemic countries in West and Central Africa where rodents that carry the virus live, but they are also known to spread in urban areas. In fact, an unusual upsurge in monkeypox cases has recently been reported in non-endemic countries. This could be the result of travel from endemic countries, where the disease is prevalent, to non-endemic countries.


The virus enters the body through the mucous membranes on the skin, it is therefore assumed to be an infection. Although unconfirmed, it is also thought to be transmitted through the air. Transmission from animals to humans occurs through direct contact with lesions, infected body fluids or blood; eating infected animals, especially if the meat is undercooked or raw; and sometimes biting, licking or scratching. Person-to-person transmission has similar characteristics. It is also made possible by direct contact with infected lesions, bodily fluids, blood, as well as mucous surfaces. Direct contact with contaminated fomites is also likely to cause infection.


Symptoms of monkeypox are quite mild but can become severe and fatal although this is rare. It is generally characterized by rash and flu-like symptoms. In the first stage, a person may experience general symptoms such as chills, fever, back and muscle pain, or less common symptoms such as diarrhea. The second stage is when the rash starts to appear and lasts around 2 to 3 weeks. The rash grows over time and changes from small bumps to fluid-filled blisters before crusting over and falling off. It is important to understand that monkeypox symptoms manifest in different ways. It's not personalized for everyone, some people may jump to the second step all together for example.


Monkeypox is likely to be confused with another smallpox such as chickenpox. Lymphadenopathy, the swelling of the lymph nodes, is usually what differentiates monkeypox from other rash diseases. A tissue sample from a lesion along with a blood sample is taken for laboratory testing to identify the disease. Most people can recover from monkeypox without treatment because it is usually a mild illness. There is no specific treatment for monkeypox virus infections. But because monkeypox and smallpox viruses share similar genetic characteristics for instance, antiviral drugs and vaccines used against smallpox can be used to treat monkeypox virus infections.


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