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Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus in the family Poxviridae. It is closely related to the smallpox virus, which was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980.
Health Canada states that monkeypox is usually a mild illness, and that most people recover on their own after a few weeks.
The incubation period (time between infection and experiencing symptoms) for monkeypox is usually between 5 to 21 days. The symptoms happen in 2 stages, and usually last for 2 to 4 weeks.
Stage 1 symptoms of monkeypox include:
In stage 2, occurring within 1 to 3 days of experiencing a fever, the individual develops skin eruptions (skin rash or lesions), usually on their face, hands, and feet. The rash may also appear on the mouth, eyes, and genitals. The rash lasts between 14 and 28 days and has different stages before finally forming a scab which falls off.
Most individuals recover without treatment. Newborn babies, children, and immunocompromised individuals are more at risk of severe disease and complications.
An individual with monkeypox can spread the disease while they have symptoms. A person is considered contagious from when the first symptoms appear until the scabs have fallen off on their own and the skin is healed.
The monkeypox virus can be spread through:
Monkeypox is typically found in central and western African countries. The cases discovered outside of these regions are believed to have been spread by infected travelers or animals.
In 2022, cases of monkeypox were confirmed in Canada, along with several other countries worldwide. The risk of infection is considered low for the general population.
People who closely interact with symptomatic individuals are at greater risk of infection. These persons include healthcare workers, people living in the same house, and sexual partners. Workers such as doctors, nurses, and laboratory workers are at risk when they:
The most effective way to avoid contracting monkeypox is by limiting exposure to infected individuals. It is currently not known if asymptomatic people (those who do not show any symptoms) can spread the disease. Infected individuals should be encouraged to:
Anyone who must be physically present with an infected individual (or materials the individual has been in contact with) should:
Do not reuse contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE).
Clean and disinfect objects or surfaces touched by infected individuals. Keep contaminated materials separate from clean objects and surfaces.
Immediately contact a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of monkeypox, particularly skin eruptions or swollen lymph nodes, or had contact with a known or suspected monkeypox case. Describe your symptoms and include how you may have been in contact (e.g., recent travel to a place where there was a monkeypox outbreak, close contact where there have been suspected infections, etc.). Healthcare staff can advise on your next steps.
If you have been diagnosed with monkeypox, self-isolate until all symptoms resolve. All scabs should have fallen off and healed before ending isolation.
Most individuals with monkeypox do not require specific medical treatment. Symptoms are usually mild and supportive treatment is usually sufficient. Healthcare providers can monitor and adjust treatment based on the severity of the infection.