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Recognizing monkeypox and reducing the risk of infection

Yesterday, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District confirmed the diagnosis of two cases of monkeypox in Bexar County, and reported 42 cases statewide.

While health officials say the risk to the general public remains low, the number of cases are expected to grow and the need to educate the public is vital.

Following is information for understanding, recognizing and reducing the likelihood of contracting the virus:

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is in the same virus family as smallpox.

What are the symptoms?

Fever, muscle aches and backache, chills, exhaustion, swollen glands and a rash.

Is it a serious illness?

It often presents as a mild illness that lasts about two to four weeks. Like chickenpox, there might be scarring after the rash heals. If there are complications, such as sepsis, encephalitis or other serious conditions, patients could be hospitalized.

How is it treated?

There are no specific treatments. Monkeypox and smallpox are very similar, so antiviral treatments for smallpox can be used to treat monkeypox.

How is it spread?

Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:

  • direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
  • pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.

The incubation period after exposure is typically 7-14 days, but can range up to 21 days.

How can you reduce your risk for monkeypox?

Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. Do not touch the rash or scabs. Do not kiss, cuddle, hug or have sex with a person who has monkeypox. Do not share food or utensils with someone who is ill. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.

Can I get vaccinated against it?

Yes, but vaccination supplies are very limited. Those who have been identified by public health officials as having close contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox are most likely to be vaccinated.

Those who were vaccinated against smallpox have some immunity against monkeypox.

What should I do if I suspect a friend or family member has monkeypox?

If individuals have fever or rash, and a recent travel history to areas with monkeypox, they should isolate. They should stay away from people or pets and contact their medical provider.

Do you have questions or want more information?

Here are some good resources: 

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