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Monkeypox

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
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What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by monkeypox virus. It got its name when it was discovered in lab monkeys in 1958. This virus is similar to the one that causes smallpox, but is less contagious and usually causes a milder disease.

Monkeypox cases typically are most common in central and western Africa, in those who recently traveled to those areas, and people who’ve had contact with imported animals. But recent cases of monkeypox have happened outside of Africa in people who have not traveled.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Monkeypox?

Monkeypox causes fever, headache, body aches, swollen , and a rash. The rash begins as flat spots that turn into bumps, which then fill with fluid. The bumps crust and fall off as they heal. Some people develop spots that look like pimples or blisters before having any other symptoms. Usually, people feel better within 2 to 4 weeks. But sometimes the virus can make a person severely ill.

How Does Monkeypox Spread?

The monkeypox virus can spread from close contact with infected people or animals.

Someone can become infected if they:

  • have contact with blood, body fluids (such as during sexual contact), or fluid from the blisters 
  • use bedding or other items contaminated by the virus
  • breathe in the virus

It can take 5 to 21 days after exposure for symptoms to start.

Should We Worry About Getting Monkeypox?

So far, monkeypox infections are very rare. If anyone in your family develops a new rash that looks like pimples or blisters, or has other possible symptoms of monkeypox, call your doctor.

Can Monkeypox Be Prevented?

Smallpox vaccines are effective against monkeypox infection, and a vaccine created to prevent both smallpox and monkeypox is available, if needed because of a large outbreak.

As with many germs, washing hands well and often, masking, and avoiding contact with sick people and animals can help protect someone from getting sick.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: June 2022