This spring, another virus has competed with the coronavirus for headlines: Monkeypox. While experts say monkeypox is not another COVID-19—the virus is well-known, and effective vaccines already exist—they’re watching its spread with concern. This week, health experts issued warnings that monkeypox poses a true risk worldwide and that the virus seems to be acting differently than it has in the past. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
The head of the World Health Organization said this week that monkeypox presents a “real risk” to public health worldwide.
The virus, which is endemic to Africa, has spread to 39 countries this spring, including 32 where it’s never been seen before. More than 1,500 infections have been reported in Europe, accounting for 85% of global cases. In the U.S., more than 70 cases have been reported across 19 states.
“The magnitude of this outbreak poses a real risk,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s European regional director. “The longer the virus circulates, the more it will extend its reach, and the stronger the disease’s foothold will get in nonendemic countries.”
This week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the window of opportunity to contain the virus may be closing. The “risk of monkeypox becoming established in non-endemic countries is real,” he said.
Kluge warned that the virus may spread widely during social gatherings this summer, and he called for event organizers and local leaders to provide education about the virus. He also urged European countries to increase surveillance, testing and contact tracing of people who are infected.
Also this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance about monkeypox symptoms. Usually, people with monkeypox developed a fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, and muscle aches, followed by a rash with firm, well-defined lesions that starts on the face or mouth.
But in several recent U.S. cases, patients first developed a rash in mucosal areas (such as the mouth, genitals, or anus). Some developed lesions scattered throughout the body, or localized to places other than the face, hands, or feet. Additionally, some people with monkeypox have reported pain in or around the anus and rectum, rectal bleeding, or the feeling of incomplete bowel movements—symptoms that hadn’t previously been associated with the virus.
The CDC warned that some people might confuse monkeypox with symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection.
“It’s now clear that there is an unusual situation, meaning even the virus is behaving unusually from how it used to behave in the past,” said Tedros.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic virus, meaning it jumps from animals to humans. It spreads through close contact with an infected person, or prolonged contact with items that may contain the virus, such as bedsheets. People with monkeypox are considered most infectious while they have a rash. The incubation period can be seven to 14 days, the CDC says. The disease can last two to four weeks, and most people recover without treatment. A person with monkeypox can be contagious from one day before they develop a rash to 21 days after symptoms appear.
And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.