Monkeypox: What You Need to Know

 On July 23rd, the World  Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a public health emergency; soon followed by the Biden Administration who named it as such on August 4th. As of September 14, a total of 22,774 cases of monkeypox have been reported throughout the U.S., along with 59,606 worldwide. 

   Prior to 2022, monkeypox has mostly remained endemic to Central and West Africa. Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when a pox-like disease infected colonies of monkeys in Copenhagen, Denmark. The first human case was detected in a 9-month-old boy in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who likely caught the virus from contact with an infected monkey.

      This year marks the first major outbreak of the disease to spread outside of the continent, first affecting the United Kingdom in early May. The transmission was linked to the infected individual’s previous travel to Nigeria. The disease has since spread to other European  countries, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania.

      Similar to smallpox and cowpox, monkeypox is a double-stranded DNA virus in the Poxviridae family. Like most poxviruses, symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, muscle aches, coughing, congestion, sore throat, and rashes, and can last from two to four weeks. It isn’t nearly as transmissible as COVID, but similarly, those infected might not experience obvious symptoms.

      Unlike smallpox, which exclusively affects humans, monkeypox can be spread between both animals and humans. Transmission can occur through face-to-face contact, contact with rashes or body fluids, or from infected animal consumption or bites.

      Anyone can contract monkeypox under the right conditions, but 98% of those infected are queer men and 95% likely caught it through close contact with an infected person. In an interview with NPR, Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci states, “You fight the virus. You don’t stigmatize the people who are afflicted with viruses.”

       Since smallpox and monkeypox share many similarities, the smallpox vaccine has shown to be 85% effective in fighting monkeypox. “That’s why we have immunization shots. To protect against viruses.” says Woodgrove school nurse Stephanie Lovasz.