What is Monkeypox?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2019
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Monkeypox is an uncommon disease that is believed to have its origins in the central and western sections of Africa. The condition is classified as a viral disease, with the root cause involving exposure to an orthodpox virus that is known as the monkeypox virus. First identified in 1958, there is not currently a vaccine specifically for the treatment of this type of viral disease, although the use of smallpox vaccine may help to ease some of the symptoms.

First discovered in lab animals such as monkeys, monkeypox has also been found in rodents and other animals native to Africa. However, the disease is not limited to wildlife. In 1970, monkeypox disease was identified in humans for the first time. As recently as 2003, a small monkeypox outbreak was reported in the United States, involving prairie dogs as well as humans.

Humans are normally infected with monkeypox through exposure to lesions or body fluids of an infected animal. Animal bites are one of the most common reasons for the development of human monkeypox. While transference of the virus from one human to another is more difficult, exposure through kissing, sneezing, or coughing is possible.


As with many viruses, monkeypox begins with an incubation period that may last anywhere between seven and seventeen days. During this time, symptoms may begin to develop. The first of several monkeypox symptoms involve swelling of the lymph nodes. A constant sense of fatigue that cannot be offset by sleep is not unusual and is often accompanied with a general feeling of being uncomfortable or about to come down with a cold. Fever, aches in the muscles and joints, and a headache that never quite goes away are also common with this viral disease. Lesions and rashes may also develop.

At present, there are no medications that have the capability to directly attack this particular virus. The usual course of treatment focuses on attacking the symptoms and providing the patient with as much relief as possible. This means the patient may take several different over the counter or prescription medications while the viral disease is running its course. Fortunately, most people will begin to recover anywhere from two to four weeks after exhibiting the first symptoms, assuming the body’s immune system is functioning normally.

Some medical experts believe that the use of the smallpox vaccine can make a difference in preventing the spread of monkeypox or even help to ease the severity of the symptoms after exposure to the virus. This is particularly true when the viral disease is diagnosed in the earlier stages.



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