Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is closely related to the smallpox virus, which was eliminated in 1980. It was first seen in humans in 1971 and mainly affects people living in central and West Africa.
Although it’s a rare condition, it can be serious – but don’t worry, most people will recover without any lasting problems. Knowing how to spot the signs and symptoms of monkeypox is the best way to get an early diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible.
The signs of monkeypox usually start between 5-14 days after contact with an infected animal or person. The main symptoms are:
- Skin rash
- Muscle aches
- Chills & exhaustion
- Swollen lymph nodes
In some cases, patients may also experience eye redness and sensitivity to light. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms after contact with a person or animal with monkeypox, speak to your doctor as soon as possible for advice and treatment.
Early Symptoms of Monkeypox
If you’ve been exposed to monkeypox, it can take anywhere from 5-21 days for symptoms to appear. Generally, the first signs are fever and fatigue, along with a headache or body aches. Some people might also experience swollen lymph nodes.
Other common early symptoms of monkeypox include:
- A widespread rash – usually red and itchy and can include sores that ooze fluid
- Flu-like symptoms like sore throat, cough, headache and muscle aches
- Eye irritation such as redness or swelling of the conjunctiva (the membrane lining the inside of the eyelids)
- Loss of appetite
It’s important to keep an eye out for any of these early symptons so you can seek medical attention if necessary.
Other Ways to Recognize Monkeypox
Another way to recognize monkeypox is by looking for certain symptoms associated with the virus. Generally, monkeypox usually starts between 7-14 days after you’ve been exposed and these are some of the most noticeable signs:
One of the most visible symptoms of monkeypox is a rash that typically shows up on your face, hands, and feet. This rash looks a lot like chickenpox but it’s more widespread—starting as small bumps that eventually turn into scabs. In some cases, this rash can spread to other parts of your body like your arms and legs.
This is probably one of the earliest symptoms you’ll experience/notice. When you have a fever as a result of monkeypox, it usually ranges from 102ºF (38ºC) up to 104ºF (40ºC). On average it will last about 5-7 days.
People who get afflicted with this virus also often feel chills, especially when their fever spikes. You may also feel a general malaise or feeling ill in addition to this symptom.
Another symptom you might experience from Monkeypox is muscle aches throughout your body that can range from annoying to extremely painful depending on how badly infected you are.
Complications Caused by Monkeypox
Having monkeypox can lead to some serious complications, so it’s important you know what to watch out for if you think you may have been exposed. The main ones are as follows:
Monkeypox can cause serious respiratory issues with the potential for pneumonia, bronchitis, and even potentially lung failure in some cases. This can be particularly severe in people with pre-existing medical conditions or weakened immune systems.
Secondary bacterial infections
Monkeypox can leave your skin open to secondary bacterial infections like staphylococcus aureus which may result in abscesses or boils on the affected area. Antibiotics can help alleviate this but if the abscess does not heal well it may spread further.
Seizures are another common complication from monkeypox and typically happens in small children as a result of encephalitis—inflammation of the brain that is sometimes caused by viruses like monkeypox. This can lead to long-term neurological damage, so it’s important to keep an eye out for signs such as dizziness, headaches, and unusual behavior and seek medical attention right away if you suspect someone has suffered a seizure.
Treatments Available for Those with Monkeypox
If you think that you have monkeypox, it’s important to know what kind of treatments are available. While there is no treatment to prevent or specifically cure the virus, there are many ways to help cope with the symptoms and support recovery.
Pain relief medications
Pain relief medications can be used to ease any discomfort from fever, headache, body aches, or other pain. It is important to remember that over-the-counter medicines will not directly treat monkeypox, but they can help manage the symptoms while your body fights off the virus.
A vaccination against monkeypox may be recommended if you have not been vaccinated previously or if it has been more than 10 years since you have had the vaccination. The vaccination helps reduce the severity of illness and can prevent further spread of the illness.
If your case of monkeypox is severe or if you have underlying health conditions, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications like oseltamivir and ribavirin as a form of treatment for monkeypox. These medications help reduce inflammation in the body and also reduce how long symptoms last.
No matter what course of treatment your doctor recommends for managing your symptoms of monkeypox, it’s important to follow their instructions closely to ensure that you get better as quickly as possible. If at any point during recovery from monkeypox you feel worse instead of better, contact your doctor immediately to discuss further treatment options.
Prevention and Management of Monkeypox
Did you know that there are preventive measures you can take to limit your exposure and risk of contracting monkeypox? And if you do become infected, there are management strategies that can help reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms.
The best way to protect yourself from monkeypox is to get vaccinated. The smallpox vaccine, which offers varying levels of protection against some viruses in the same family as monkeypox, is the only approved vaccine for this infection.
If you have symptoms of a monkeypox infection, your doctor will likely prescribe antiviral medication — specifically, cidofovir or vaccinia immune globulin — to reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms. If a skin infection develops, antibiotics may be prescribed as well.
When it comes to prevention and management, there are a few other things to keep in mind:
- Keep any infected person away from unvaccinated people as much as possible as to not spread the virus.
- Make sure all infected persons wash their hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer diligently.
- Avoid sharing items such as bedding, clothing or toys where the virus could be transmitted via droplets of saliva or mucus.