Monkeypox has now spread to at least 75 countries with more than 5,000 cases in the United States and 442 cases in Florida as of July 31, according to the Florida Department of Health.
That’s an increase of 169 probable or confirmed cases of monkeypox here in one week, mostly from Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange and Pinellas counties, and a sharp increase from the first probable case here on May 22.
On July 22, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” with the spread of coronavirus and polio.
What is monkeypox? Should you worry about that? How do you know if you have it? We have answers.
Monkeypox sightings around Florida:
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It is similar to smallpox (and from the same family of viruses) but is lighter and rarely fatal. Monkeypox has nothing to do with chickenpox.
Monkeypox occurs mostly in tropical rainforest regions of Central and West Africa and is sometimes found in other areas of travelers.
Is monkeypox fatal? Is there a cure?
Currently, there is no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox, although there is a vaccine and FDA-approved antiviral drugs for smallpox that could be considered as an emergency treatment for monkeypox.
According to the World Health Organization, the case fatality rate has been around 3-6% recently. People most at risk of developing severe forms of the disease are children under 8 years old, people with eczema, very old people and those with weakened immune systems.
However, monkeypox can be very painful. The lesions can cause severe pain, both persistently and, depending on the location, when using the bathroom or eating.
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Complications of monkeypox can include secondary infections, bronchitis, sepsis, encephalitis, and corneal infection with vision loss.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox disease?
Fever, headache, muscle and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, fatigue, sore throat, nasal congestion, cough, and a rash of painful, itchy lesions that often begin on the face and then spread to other parts of the body such as on or near the genitals, anus, hands, feet, and chest.
Most people with monkeypox develop a rash, and some develop other symptoms later or not at all.
Addressing myths about monkeypox:A look at symptoms, treatment and other frequently asked questions
What does monkeypox look like?
The rash usually begins within a few days of the fever, although the rash was first spotted in this recent outbreak, said Dr. Marshall Gillespie, an infectious disease specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian.
Once it arrives, the rash goes from simple lesions to firm, slightly raised lesions, to lesions filled with a clear fluid, to blisters (lesions filled with yellowish fluid), and then the lesions peel and fall off. The number of pests can range from a few to several thousand.
How can I distinguish between measles, chickenpox and monkeypox?
It’s not easy. Chickenpox and monkeypox have been confused for each other and in some cases only medical tests will tell you which one is.
The spread of the rash may also give you an idea. The monkeypox rash often begins on the face and spreads elsewhere, usually one to five days after you have a fever. The chickenpox rash tends to appear on the chest, face, and back a day or two after the fever.
The biggest difference is that monkeypox can cause swollen lymph nodes while chickenpox does not. The test will determine this for sure.
The measles rash begins in the hairline or forehead and spreads downward, looking like flat red spots or slightly raised bumps, with no fluid inside.
How long does monkeypox last? How long is monkeypox infection?
Symptoms usually begin within three weeks of exposure to the virus, according to the CDC. From the time symptoms begin until the rash has healed, all the crusts shed and a new layer of skin forms—usually about 2-4 weeks—you’re contagious.
How is monkeypox transmitted and contracted with it?
Monkeypox spreads through close personal contact, often skin-to-skin contact. This can include direct contact with rashes, scabs, body fluids, or respiratory droplets from a person who has the virus.
Monkeypox is not an STD, but it can be spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals of a person with the virus. Also by hugging, kissing, massaging or prolonged face-to-face contact.
You cannot contract monkeypox through casual contact (shaking hands or clicking on the cheek) or through a toilet seat.
It’s possible that monkeypox can be transmitted by touching objects or fabrics (bed sheets, towels, clothing, sex toys) used by an infected person, Gillespie said, but there is no evidence that anyone has contracted it in this way during the outbreak.
It is also possible to contract monkeypox from infected animals, from a bite, scratch, or bodily fluids, especially from rodents. In the last outbreak in 2003, people became infected after contact with pet prairie dogs.
Arrival in the United States:The first case of monkeypox in the United States was discovered this year in Massachusetts, and confirmed by the CDC
more:With monkeypox cases on the rise, a health expert says travelers shouldn’t worry about accidental contact
What do I do if I get a rash?
If you develop a new or unexplained rash or other symptoms, avoid close contact with anyone until you have been examined by your health care provider or local clinic. It includes sex or physical intimacy.
You may need to specifically order a monkeypox test, as some health care providers are still learning about this as well and may not realize that it is spreading in the community.
Should I receive the monkeypox vaccination?
Health officials say the people at risk of developing monkeypox in the 2022 outbreak are gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men, laboratory workers, medical personnel and any other people such as close family members of infected people who may be exposed for monkeypox.
Monkeypox vaccines:How to get vaccinated against monkeypox in the United States. Who should get one?
Where can I find monkeypox vaccine near me? Who is Eligible for the Monkey Pox Vaccine?
There are two vaccines licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration, but one of them, ACAM2000, is not recommended for people with weakened immune systems or those who have close contact with them because it uses live virus that can be transmitted. The safest vaccine, JYNNEOS or MVA, is not widely available, but the Biden administration has made available more than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine, with an additional 5.5 million doses in 2023. It requires two doses, four weeks apart.
In Florida, vaccines are available through the county health department or health care providers who have received doses from the Department of Health. Due to a dearth of supplies, it is not available through local drugstores such as CVS, Walgreens, or Publix.
Does the smallpox vaccine protect against monkeypox?
If you were so age-appropriate that you received the smallpox vaccine before regular vaccination ended in the United States in the 1970s, you’ll likely still have some protection from monkeypox, experts say, but it’s not yet clear.
Should I be worried about monkeypox?
You should stay informed, and pay attention to local media reports and updates from your local and state health department.
Is monkeypox a homosexual disease?
No, monkeypox can be transmitted through close or intimate contact but it is not required, and the virus can be spread to anyone of any sexual orientation. Two children in the United States were diagnosed with close contact with infected family members.
Mehdi Sobhani, an infectious disease specialist at The Ohio State University Medical Center, said gays should not be stigmatized just because the virus has started to spread among men who have sex with men.
“Don’t think of this as a disease like me,” he said. “It’s a disease that can happen through close contact.”
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Contributor: Karen Weintraub, Mike Snyder, USA Today, Douglas Ray, Janesville Sun
CA Bridges is a digital producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with multiple newsrooms across Florida. Local journalists work hard to keep you up to date on the things you care about, and you can support them by subscribing to your local news organization. Read more of Chris’ articles here and follow him on Twitter at Tweet embed