Should I Be Concerned about a Monkeypox Outbreak?

Published: June 28, 2022
Revised: August 30, 2022
Melody Berg
By Melody Berg, PharmD, MPH, BCPS

You may have heard the news stories about Monkeypox cases popping up in the United States and are wondering if this is something you need to be concerned about. As medication and vaccine experts, pharmacists have specialized training in educating patients and consumers about diseases and the best options to treat them or relieve symptoms. The information below was written by a pharmacist to explain what you need to know about Monkeypox.

 

What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a disease caused by infection with the Monkeypox virus, which is a virus in the same family as Smallpox. Until recently, Monkeypox cases primarily occurred in Africa and were only found in other countries associated with people who traveled to Africa or animals imported from Africa.

 

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?
Initial Monkeypox symptoms can start 5 to 21 days after being exposed to the virus and can include the following:

 

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

 

Within a few days of the start of fever, the rash begins, typically on the face, and then spreads to the entire body. The lesions usually start as small spots of discoloration on the skin before gradually changing to pus-filled blisters that will scab over and fall off.

 

The entire illness lasts about 2 to 4 weeks.

 

How do I get the Monkeypox virus?
Monkeypox virus can be spread from person to person by coming in contact with infected sores, scabs, or bodily fluids of an infected person. It can also spread from person to person by contact with respiratory secretions that can come from being face-to-face with someone for a prolonged period of time.

 

Monkeypox virus can also spread from infected animals to people by handling the carcass of an infected animal, bites from an infected animal, or using products or ingesting meat from an infected animal. Monkeypox virus can also be spread through contact with materials like bed linens, or clothing that has touched the sores of an infected person or animal.

 

Is there a vaccine for Monkeypox?
A vaccine against Monkeypox and Smallpox does exist. It is recommended for certain individuals whose jobs put them at high risk for Monkeypox exposure, such as working in a clinical laboratory where Monkeypox is handled. The vaccine is also recommended for individuals working in healthcare or on public health response teams who work with potential patients.

 

The vaccine can be given to anyone exposed to an infected animal or person if given within 4 days of contact to prevent illness. It can be given 4 to 14 days after exposure to reduce the symptoms but not prevent the illness.

 

How is Monkeypox treated?
There is no medication specifically for the treatment of Monkeypox at this time. However, there are treatments for Smallpox and other similar viruses that might be effective against Monkeypox. These treatments are available for patients with severe illness or at high risk for severe illness. This includes:

 

  • Patients with a compromised immune system, such as HIV-infected individuals, certain cancer patients, patients with a history of organ transplant, patients on high-dose corticosteroids, or patients with autoimmune disorders on therapy that suppresses the immune system
  • Children younger than 8 years of age
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • People with complications, such as a secondary infection with bacteria like a gastrointestinal infection

 

How can I keep from getting Monkeypox?
There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself against Monkeypox, such as:

 

  • Avoid contact with animals that could be infected in areas known to have Monkeypox
  • Avoid contact with bedding that has been known to be in contact with an infected animal
  • Isolate infected patients from others
  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after potentially coming in contact with infected people or animals
  • Use personal protective equipment such as gloves, a mask, and a gown when caring for infected people

 

Summary
The number of Monkeypox cases is rising in the United States and other countries. Knowing how and where you can be exposed to the Monkeypox virus is important to prevent the illness. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how you can avoid getting infected and what to do if you think you have come into contact with the virus.

 

Related content
Do I Have Monkeypox?

How Do I Get Monkeypox?

I Have Monkeypox: What Should I Do?

Smallpox/Monkeypox Vaccine

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