FAQS on Monkeypox by WHO
Q. What is monkeypox?
Ans: Monkeypox is an illness caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a viral zoonotic infection, meaning that it can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread from person to person.
Q. What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Ans: Monkeypox can cause a range of signs and symptoms. While some people have mild symptoms, others may develop more serious symptoms and need care in a health facility. Those at higher risk for severe disease or complications include people who are pregnant, children, and persons that are immunocompromised.
The most common symptoms of monkey pox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. This is followed or accompanied by the development of a rash which can last for two to three weeks.
The rash can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body. The number of lesions can range from one to several thousand. Lesions begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath.
Symptoms typically last two to three weeks and usually go away on their own or with supportive care, such as medication for pain or fever. People remain infectious until all of the lesions have crusted over, the scabs fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.
Anyone who has symptoms that could be monkeypox or who has been in contact with someone who has monkeypox should call or visit a health care provider and seek their advice.
Q. Can people get seriously ill or die from monkeypox?
Ans: In most cases, the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks. However, in some people, an infection can lead to medical complications and even death. Newborn babies, children, and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.
Complications from monkeypox include secondary skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye problems. In the past, between 1% to 10% of people with monkeypox have died. It is important to note that death rates in different settings may differ due to a number of factors, such as access to health care.
These figures may be overestimated because surveillance for monkeypox has generally been limited in the past. In the newly affected countries where the current outbreak is taking place, there have been no deaths to date.
Q. How does monkeypox spread from person to person?
Ans: Monkeypox spreads from person to person through close contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash, including through face-to-face, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-skin contact, including sexual contact.
We are still learning about how long people with monkeypox are infectious, but generally, they are considered infectious until all of their lesions have crusted over, the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.
Environments can become contaminated with the monkeypox virus, for example when an infectious person touches clothing, bedding, towels, objects, electronics, and surfaces. Someone else who touches these items can then become infected.
It is also possible to become infected from breathing in skin flakes or viruses from clothing, bedding, or towels. This is known as fomite transmission.
Ulcers, lesions, or sores in the mouth can be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through direct contact with the mouth, respiratory droplets, and possibly through short-range aerosols. Possible mechanisms of transmission through the air for monkeypox are not yet well understood and studies are underway to learn more.
The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the fetus, after birth through skin-to-skin contact, or from a parent with monkeypox to an infant or child during close contact.
Although the asymptomatic infection has been reported, it is not clear whether people without any symptoms can spread the disease or whether it can spread through other bodily fluids.
Pieces of DNA from the monkeypox virus have been found in semen, but it is not yet known whether infection can spread through semen, vaginal fluids, amniotic fluids, breastmilk, or blood.
Research is underway to find out more about whether people can spread monkeypox through the exchange of these fluids during and after symptomatic infection.
Q. How does monkeypox spread from animals to humans?
Ans: Monkeypox can spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Animal hosts include rodents and primates. The risk of catching monkeypox from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are sick or dead (including their meat and blood).
In endemic countries where animals carry monkeypox, any foods containing animal meat or parts should be cooked thoroughly before eating.
Q. Can monkeypox spread from humans to animals?
Ans: While instances of people with monkeypox infecting animals have not been documented, it is a potential risk. People who have confirmed or suspected monkeypox should avoid close contact with animals, including pets (such as cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils, etc.), livestock, and wildlife. People with monkeypox should be particularly vigilant around animals that are known to be susceptible to the monkeypox virus, including rodents and non-human primates.
Q. Who is at risk of catching monkeypox?
Ans: Newborn infants, young children, and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms, and in rare cases, death from monkeypox.
People who live with or have close contact (including sexual contact) with someone who has monkeypox, or who has regular contact with animals who could be infected, are most at risk. Health workers should follow infection prevention and control measures to protect themselves while caring for monkeypox patients.
People who were vaccinated against smallpox may have some protection against monkeypox. However, younger people are unlikely to have been vaccinated against smallpox because smallpox vaccination stopped in most settings worldwide after it was eradicated in 1980. People who have been vaccinated against smallpox should continue to take precautions to protect themselves and others.
Q. How can I protect myself and others against monkeypox?
Ans: Reduce your risk of catching monkeypox by limiting close contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox, or with animals who could be infected. Clean and disinfect environments that could have been contaminated with the virus by someone who is infected regularly. Keep yourself informed about monkeypox in your area and have open conversations with those you come into close contact (especially sexual contact) with about any symptoms you or they may have.
If you think you might have monkeypox, you can act to protect others by seeking medical advice and isolating yourself from others until have been evaluated and tested. If you have probable or confirmed monkeypox, you should isolate yourself from others until all of your lesions have crusted over, the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.
This will stop you from passing on the virus to others. Get advice from your health worker on whether you should isolate yourself at home or in a health facility. Until more is understood about transmission through sexual fluids, use condoms as a precaution whilst having sexual contact for 12 weeks after you have recovered.
Q. What should I do if I think I may have monkeypox symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has monkeypox?
Ans: If you have had close contact with someone who has monkeypox or an environment that may have been contaminated with the virus, monitor yourself closely for signs and symptoms for 21 days after the time you were last exposed. Limit close contact with other people as much as you can, and when it is unavoidable let your contact know that you have been exposed to monkeypox.
If you think you have symptoms of monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider for advice, testing, and medical care. Until you receive your test result, isolate yourself from others if possible. Clean your hands regularly.
If you test positive for monkeypox, your healthcare provider will advise you on whether you should isolate at home or in a health facility, and what care you need.
Q. If I have monkeypox, what should I do to protect other people from getting infected?
Ans: If you have monkeypox, your healthcare provider will advise if you should be cared for in a hospital or at home. This will depend on how serious your symptoms are, whether you have risk factors that put you at risk for more serious symptoms and whether you can minimize the risk of infecting anyone you live with.
If you are advised to isolate yourself at home, you should not go out. Protect others you live with as much as possible by:
- Isolating in a separate room
- Using a separate bathroom, or cleaning after each use
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces with soap and water and a household disinfectant and avoiding sweeping/vacuuming (this might disturb virus particles and cause others to become infected)
- Using separate utensils, towels, bedding, and electronics
- Do your own laundry (lift bedding, clothes, and towels carefully without shaking them, put materials in a plastic bag before carrying it to the washing machine, and wash them with hot water > 60 degrees)
- Opening windows for good ventilation
- Encouraging everyone in the house to clean their hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
If you cannot avoid being in the same room as someone else or having close contact with another person while isolated at home, then do your best to limit their risk by:
- Avoiding touching each other
- Cleaning your hands often
- Covering your rash with clothing or bandages
- Opening windows throughout the home
- Ensuring you and anyone in the room with you wear well-fitting medical masks
- Maintaining at least 1 meter of distance.
If you cannot do your own laundry and someone else needs to do it for you, they should wear a well-fitting medical mask, and disposable gloves and take the laundry precautions listed above.
Q. Is there a vaccine against monkeypox?
Ans: Yes. A vaccine was recently approved for preventing monkeypox. Some countries are recommending vaccination for persons at risk. Many years of research have led to the development of newer and safer vaccines for an eradicated disease called smallpox, which may also be useful for monkeypox.
One of these has been approved for the prevention of monkeypox. Only people who are at risk (for example someone who has been a close contact with someone who has monkeypox) should be considered for vaccination. Mass vaccination is not recommended at this time.
While the smallpox vaccine was shown to be protective against monkeypox in the past, current data on the effectiveness of newer smallpox/monkeypox vaccines in the prevention of monkeypox in clinical practice and in field settings are limited.
Studying the use of vaccines for monkeypox wherever they are used will allow for the rapid generation of additional information on the effectiveness of these vaccines in different settings.
Q. What is the treatment for people with monkeypox?
Ans: People with monkeypox should follow the advice of their health care provider. Symptoms normally resolve on their own without the need for treatment. If needed, medication for pain (analgesics) and fever (antipyretics) can be used to relieve some symptoms.
It is important for anyone with monkeypox to stay hydrated, eat well, and get enough sleep. People who are self-isolating should take care of their mental health by doing things they find relaxing and enjoyable, staying connected to loved ones using technology, exercising if they feel well enough and can do so while isolating, and asking for support with their mental health if they need it.
People with monkeypox should avoid scratching their skin and take care of their rash by cleaning their hands before and after touching lesions and keeping skin dry and uncovered (unless they are unavoidably in a room with someone else, in which case they should cover it with clothing or a bandage until they are able to isolate again).
The rash can be kept clean with sterilized water or antiseptic. Saltwater rinses can be used for lesions in the mouth, and warm baths with baking soda and Epsom salts can help with lesions on the body. Lidocaine can be applied to oral and perianal lesions to relieve pain.
Many years of research on therapeutics for smallpox have led to the development of products that may also be useful for treating monkeypox. An antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat) was approved in January 2022 by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of monkeypox.
Experience with these therapeutics in the context of an outbreak of monkeypox is limited. For this reason, their use is usually accompanied by a collection of information that will improve knowledge on how best to use them in the future.
Q. I think I have been exposed to someone who has monkeypox. What should I do?
Ans: If you think you have been exposed to monkeypox, monitor yourself closely for signs and symptoms for three weeks after the time you were last exposed. Symptoms of monkeypox typically include a fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and a skin rash or lesions on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, mouth, genitals, perianal area or eyes.
If you do develop symptoms, contact your health care provider for advice, testing, and medical care.
Q. Is my risk of catching or getting serious symptoms from monkeypox higher if I have COVID-19, or if I am suffering from long-COVID?
Ans: This is a question that health professionals are currently trying to answer. At this time, we don’t yet know whether having COVID-19 or post COVID-19 condition (long-COVID) makes you more vulnerable to monkeypox. More studies are needed on patients who have or have had infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 condition and now have monkeypox.
Avoid contact with others to prevent passing on the virus, and monitor your symptoms to be able to get the right care. If you think you have the post-COVID condition, contact a health worker to get the support you need.
Q. Can children get monkeypox?
Ans: Children can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone who has symptoms. Data from previously affected countries show that children are typically more prone to severe disease than adolescents and adults. There have been a small number of children with monkeypox in the current outbreak.
Q. What should I do if a child in my care has symptoms that could be monkeypox?
Ans: The monkeypox rash can resemble other common childhood illnesses, such as chickenpox and other viral infections. If a child you are caring for has symptoms that could be monkeypox, seek advice from a healthcare provider. They will help to get them tested, and to access the care they need.
Children may be at greater risk of severe monkeypox than adults. They should be closely monitored until they have recovered in case they need additional care. A health worker responsible for the child may advise that they are cared for in a health facility. In this situation, a parent or caregiver who is healthy and at low risk of monkeypox will be allowed to isolate with them.
Q. Can the monkeypox virus be spread through a blood transfusion?
Ans: You should never give blood when feeling unwell. If you have an appointment to give blood, self-assess your health and monitor any symptoms of monkeypox and reschedule your appointment if you don’t feel well.
There are strict protocols in place for when people can give blood. The prospective donor is asked questions about how they feel, and any symptoms they are currently experiencing. This is done to reduce the risk of anyone with an infectious disease giving blood.
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