Monkeypox is in the news these days, but what is it exactly?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, and was given the name monkeypox. The first human cases were recorded in 1970. As of 7/5/2022, there were 560 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the US.

Monkeypox virus can spread when a person comes into contact with the virus from an infected animal, infected person, or materials contaminated with the virus. Monkeypox spreads between people mainly through direct contact with infectious sores, fluid from the blisters, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread by respiratory secretions.

The incubation period (time between being infected and symptoms) is usually 7-14 days. Usually the illness begins with a fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, before a rash appears a few days later. The rash begins as flat spots that turn into bumps, then fill with fluid. As they heal, the bumps scab over, dry out, then fall off.

Most people feel better within 2 to 4 weeks, but sometimes the virus can make a person severely ill. If you have any symptoms of monkeypox, contact your health provider for advice.

Practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding close contact with sick people and animals, especially with skin rashes or lesions, can help prevent infection from the monkeypox virus.

For more information see:

Pennsylvania Department of Health: Monkeypox Virus Fact Sheet

PCHC Infection Control and Prevention Training: