Monkeypox | Symptoms, transmission, contagiousness… what you need to know about the disease



Monkeypox is a rare disease that originated in Africa. The virus can be transmitted by direct contact with broken skin or mucous membranes of a sick person, as well as by droplets. You can also become contaminated through contact with the patient’s environment (bedding, clothes, dishes, bath linen).

Orthopoxvirus, or “monkey pox”, is a rare viral zoonosis (virus transmitted to humans by animals) that is mainly observed in isolated areas of central and western Africa. , near tropical rainforests” indicates the WHO.

“African rodents and non-human primates (such as monkeys) can harbor the virus and infect humans” specifies the United States Agency for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC). “This virus clinically resembles that of smallpox, but monkeypox is caused by a poxvirus different from the smallpox virus”, explains the World Health Organization (WHO).

Read also: Infectious Diseases and Contagious (viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, protozoa)

The first human case has been detected in 1970, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-year-old boy living in an area where smallpox had been eliminated since 1968.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms resemble those of smallpox patients, but milder. In the first 5 days, the infection causes several symptoms:

  • fever
  • headache
  • lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes)
  • back pain
  • myalgia (muscle pain)
  • asthenia (exhaustion)

Within 1-3 days (sometimes longer) of the onset of fever, the patient develops symptoms of a skin rash (rash) that often begins on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body, including the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet and the mucous membranes (mouth and genital area).

Skin involvement occurs in a single push. Itching is common. The lesions go through different successive stages:

  • smudges (something wet or sticky)
  • papules (acne that stands out, feels solid and painful, looks reddish)
  • vesicles (thin-walled sac filled with a fluid, usually clear and small.)
  • pustules (small, inflamed, pus-filled, blister-like sores or lesions on the skin surface)
  • scabs

When the scabs fall off, people are no longer contagious. The other mucous membranes (ENT, conjunctivae) may also be affected.

The incubation of the disease can range from 5 to 21 days. The fever phase lasts approximately 1 to 3 days. The disease, generally benign, most often heals spontaneously, after 2 to 3 weeks.

B Virus (herpes B, monkey B virus, herpesvirus simiae, and herpesvirus B)


“The virus is mainly transmitted to humans from various wild animals, rodents or primates for example, but secondary spread by human-to-human transmission is limited” reassures the WHO.

Infection is caused by direct contact with blood, body fluids or skin or mucous membrane lesions of infected animals. “In Africa, human infections have been documented as a result of handling infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats and squirrels, with rodents thought to be the main reservoir of the virus.

Consumption of meat from infected animals is not sufficiently cooked is a possible risk factor” develops the WHO. Human-to-human transmission occurs primarily through respiratory droplet particles. Other modes of human-to-human transmission include direct skin contact with body fluids or the lesion, and indirect contact with the lesion, such as through contaminated clothing, linens, or dishes.

It is therefore important that patients respect isolation for the entire duration of the disease (until the disappearance of the last scabs, most often 3 weeks).

According to researchers at the Institut Pasteur, the transmission of the monkeypox virus outside Africa “is probably due to the global decline in immunity to viruses of the orthopoxvirus genus (responsible for human smallpox), following the cessation of smallpox vaccination in the 1980s. Monkeypox could therefore become the most important orthopoxvirus infection in humans”.

Is monkeypox contagious?

There may be transmission of the disease between men, for example within the same family via exposure to respiratory droplets from the infected person, but this “generally requires prolonged face-to-face contact” underlines the WHO.

The disease is thus not very contagious between men. It can also occur by inoculation or by the placental route (congenital simian orthopoxvirosis).

How do I know if I have monkeypox?

To diagnose the disease, it is necessary to go through an analysis of the virus in the laboratory.

What is the treatment for monkeypox?

“There is no specific treatment or vaccine, although smallpox vaccination has been shown to be very effective in preventing monkeypox as well,” the WHO points out. Monkeypox is a disease from which the patient usually recovers spontaneously in two to three weeks.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

There is no vaccine against Monkeypox but that against smallpox would be 85% effective according to the Pasteur Institute.

Is monkeypox fatal?

“The mortality rate during outbreaks of monkeypox has been between 1% and 10%, with most deaths occurring in younger people,” says the WHO. “The disease usually lasts 2 to 4 weeks. In Africa, monkeypox has been shown to kill at least 1 in 10 people who contract the disease,” the CDC states.

The disease is more serious in children and in immunocompromised people. It can be complicated by superinfection of skin lesions or respiratory, digestive or ophthalmological or neurological damage.

Diseases | List of Diseases: dermatological, cardiovascular, respiratory, cancer, eye, genetic, infectious, mental illness, rare

Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

Sources: PinterPandai, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, CDC, WHO, Institut Pasteur

Photo credit: WHO / Mark V. Szczeniowski

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