Monkeypox | Everything You Didn't Know You Needed to Know

Learn all about the monkeypox virus, symptoms, prevention, treatment, and what to do if you think you are infected

Monkeypox | Everything You Didn't Know You Needed to Know
Reviewed by Dr. Rachel McDowell, Medical Director at Antidote Health

Monkeypox may sound scary, and the pictures you are seeing online may be alarming. But it’s important to keep in mind that in almost all cases the disease runs its course and goes away on its own, and it is rarely fatal. The reason the disease has become a global concern is that this is the first time there has been an outbreak of this size outside of Africa. 

Knowledge is power, and it helps to think clearly and get the treatment we need. We have compiled some facts about the disease below, so you can be sure you know everything you need to know about monkeypox.

What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease, first discovered among a colony of monkeys in Congo, which is how it got its name. 

The monkeypox virus is closely related to the smallpox virus, but definitely not as alarming, because monkeypox symptoms are milder than those of smallpox, and it is rarely fatal. 

At this time there are about 72 cases in the U.S., and about 2100 cases in regions monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO).  


As a rule, monkeypox begins with flu-like symptoms. You may experience:

fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, backache, joint pain, chills, or exhaustion. The symptoms don’t necessarily appear in a particular order. Some people only experience a rash, but most of the time the rash follows the flu-like symptoms. The rash may appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on hands, feet, genitalia, and other body parts. In rarer cases, the flu-like symptoms come after the rash. 

The rash goes through various stages before healing completely. This may take several weeks.

The stages are:

  • flat patches
  • raised nodules 
  • small fluid sacs or blister-like pustules which may look like pimples. They appear inside the mouth, on the face, or on other parts of the body, like chest, hands, feet, genitals, or anus

Each stage lasts about two days. The final stage of pus-filled blisters can last five to seven days.

How Do You Get Monkeypox?

Human-to-human transmission occurs through bodily fluids, lesions, and respiratory droplets – that is – you get it by close contact with infected people. Sexual intercourse, and other close skin contact; kissing, hugging, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores also spread the disease. The virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, or to a child through skin-to-skin contact, even during birth. When someone is sick with monkeypox, their saliva is also infectious because the lesions, ulcers, or sores in the mouth are infectious. Health workers, caregivers, household members and sexual partners of a patient should take precautions. 

Monkeypox and Covid-19 – Is This the New Pandemic?

We are all tired of the Covid-19 pandemic. Could this be the new pandemic? 

As of now, the WHO does not think so. First, the monkeypox virus is not as contagious as COVID-19. Also, cases where people do not know they are sick are rare to nonexistent: this means they will seek help and isolate themselves before they infect others unawares, as is often the case with Covid-19.

What we should keep in mind is that unlike the Covid-19 virus, the monkeypox virus can linger for a long time outside the body. Contaminated clothing, bedding, electronic devices, and other personal items may transmit the disease to healthy people. It is important to keep that in mind if you are around someone who is actively sick.


There are several ways to reduce the risk of spreading the disease:

  • isolate patients with monkeypox
  • use personal protective equipment when examining or treating someone with monkeypox
  • avoid contact with bedding, towels, or other objects that have been used by a sick person
  • remove animals that may be infected with monkeypox
  • vaccines: according to the CDC, when properly administered before exposure, smallpox vaccines are effective at protecting people against monkeypox. Imvamune or Imvanex (ACAM200 and JYNNEOSTM) are the two, currently-licensed vaccines in the United States to prevent smallpox

In special medical cases, professional healthcare providers may recommend patients receive post-exposure prophylaxis. 

Treatment and Cure

Monkeypox symptoms often resolve themselves within 2-4 weeks. Most people with monkeypox get better on their own, without treatment. It is important to let the rash dry if possible. Avoid touching the sores in the mouth or eyes. You may use mouth rinses and eye drops, but you must avoid cortisone-containing products. It is best to have a healthcare provider monitor your condition and try to relieve your symptoms. In cases where secondary bacterial infections develop, your healthcare provider may treat you with antibiotics.

What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Caught It?

If you develop either symptoms of monkeypox or have had contact with a known or suspect monkeypox case, call a healthcare provider immediately.

If you have been diagnosed with monkeypox, it is important to know that people with monkeypox are infectious to others from the onset of fever until all lesions scab over. Make sure to stay in isolation until all scabs have fallen off and healed. 

A monkeypox diagnosis is based on a combination of factors, including signs and symptoms, but also risk factors such as exposure to someone infected with the virus, or travel history. It may also be diagnosed by laboratory testing. 

Symptoms can be like those of other infectious diseases, such as chickenpox.

How Can I Tell Monkeypox from Chickenpox?

  • In monkeypox, there is a swelling of the lymph glands, which is not a symptom of chickenpox
  • In monkeypox, the rash may begin in the mouth or on the face and then spread to other parts of the body, whereas in chickenpox the rash begins first on the chest and back
  • In monkeypox, the fever begins approximately 1-5 days before the rash, whereas in chickenpox, fever and other symptoms begin to appear one to two days before the rash

Can Children Get Monkeypox?

Children can get monkeypox, and they are at higher risk of severe disease. But according to the WHO, no children have been diagnosed with the disease outside of Africa during the current outbreak.

Should I Be Concerned?

The average person should not be concerned about catching monkeypox. That’s because transmission requires close contact with infected people over time, and it is virtually impossible to overlook monkeypox symptoms, so the chances of infection by accident are very low. Also, monkeypox has a very low rate of mortality and normally goes away on its own.  

The people who are at a higher risk for developing a severe disease are: 

  • Children under 8. But remember – no such case has been reported outside of Africa at this time
  • Those with a compromised immune system 
  • People who are suffering or have suffered from skin problems such as atopic dermatitis, eczema or severe acne 
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Seniors – although older people over the age of 50 have probably been vaccinated against smallpox (these vaccinations stopped in the U.S. in 1972), and according to the CDC, the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective against monkeypox

If you are worried about monkeypox, are experiencing alarming symptoms or are concerned about your health, our platform can provide you with the information you need. Whether you want a one-time consultation, or a healthcare plan that keeps you on top of your health, our physicians are available 24/7 to answer your needs. Contact Antidote Health today and see how we can help you.

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