What You Need to Know about Monkeypox
First, don’t panic. Second, wear a mask (for COVID, not monkeypox). Third, don’t panic.
With the ever-evolving coronavirus variants, common respiratory diseases like RSV popping up in the wrong season, the mysterious spate of hepatitis cases, and now an unusual outbreak of monkeypox cases… you could be forgiven for being exhausted by an onslaught of plagues that feels almost biblical.
But all viruses are not equal, and the emergence of these new monkeypox cases you’ve been hearing about does not mean we’re headed for yet another global pandemic that will upend our lives all over again. Here’s what you need to know about monkeypox, its symptoms and transmission, and how much you do — or don’t — need to worry about it.
Before we jump into the questions, it’s worth noting that COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising the past several weeks even as they are increasingly underreported due to home testing, delayed testing, and low levels of testing. You remain at far greater risk of COVID-19 than any other contagious illness right now, and vaccination, masking, good ventilation, and avoiding indoor gatherings remain the most effective ways to prevent it.
So what the heck is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus from the same family (orthopoxviruses) as smallpox and cowpox. It causes a rash with blister-like lesions that are painful instead of itchy, along with other typical flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and a general feeling of ickiness. Fortunately, it’s less severe and less deadly than smallpox, and the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective against it.
Importantly, unlike the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, monkeypox is not a new virus. It was first discovered in 1958 in lab monkeys, and the first human case was identified in 1970 in a baby in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?
The smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective against monkeypox when given before the person is exposed. Receiving the smallpox vaccine within 4 days of exposure to monkeypox may prevent the disease. Receiving it between 4–14 days after exposure may not prevent…