With Maine reporting its first confirmed case of monkeypox in York County, there’s a couple things to know about the virus.
Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates, and occasionally jumps to people. Most human cases have been in central and west Africa, where the disease is endemic.
The illness was first identified by scientists in 1958 when there were two outbreaks of a “pox-like” disease in research monkeys — thus the name monkeypox. The first known human infection was in 1970, in a 9-year-old boy in a remote part of Congo.
Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but causes milder symptoms.
Most patients only experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
The virus could infect anyone, though it does not spread as easily as COVID-19 and typically requires prolonged face-to-face or intimate contact, according to guidance from the CDC.
Here’s what you need to know:
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes followed by a rash.
The distinctive features of monkeypox happen after the first symptoms, said Dr. Aileen Marty, professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Medicine at FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. After an incubation period of five to 21 days, but usually six to 12 days, infected people get early symptoms like a bad headache, fever, back pain, muscle ache and swollen lymph nodes.
These early symptoms generally last one to three days and then comes the rash.
“The rash is unusual because it classically starts on the face and the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, followed by rash elsewhere — but in the current outbreak, that has not been the usual spread. In this outbreak, lesions have manifested first in the groin, and the prodrome (early symptom) has not been as severe or notable,” Marty said in a previous interview with the Herald.
People are infectious from a few hours before the first symptom manifests until the scabs are dry and gone.
According to the CDC, lesions progress through the following stages before falling off: macules (flat lesions), papules (well-defined skin bump), vesicles (blister, filled with clear fluid, usually), pustules (bulging fluid containing pus) and scabs.
The illness typically lasts for two to four weeks. The rash is typically painful, Marty adds, and the scabs contain infectious viral particles.
What to do if you have symptoms?
Even if you don’t think you’ve been in contact with anyone who has monkeypox, if you are experiencing symptoms, the CDC recommends that you speak with your health care provider to determine whether you need to be tested.
These tests are now more widely available to physicians since Labcorp, a company that operates one of the largest clinical lab networks in the world, began testing for monkeypox using the CDC’s orthopoxvirus test in early July.
“The ability of commercial labs to test for monkeypox is a key pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a statement to the press on July 6. “This will not only increase testing capacity but will make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by using existing provider-to-lab relationships.”
Story by Howard Cohen, Anuraag Bukkhuri and Daniel Chang, Miami Herald. BDN writer Leela Stockley contributed to this report.