Monkeypox: What parents should know – CHOC

As several suspected cases of monkeypox have been found in the U.S., some parents may understandably have some questions.

Here, CHOC experts answer parents’ questions about what Monkeypox is, its signs and symptoms and if they should be worried.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It got its name when it was discovered in lab monkeys in 1958. This virus is similar to the one that causes smallpox, but is less contagious and usually causes a milder disease.

Monkeypox cases typically are most common in central and western Africa, in those who recently traveled to those areas and people who’ve had contact with imported animals. But recent cases of monkeypox have happened outside of Africa in people who have not traveled.

What are the signs & symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox causes fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. The rash begins as flat spots that turn into bumps, which then fill with fluid and become blisters. The bumps crust and fall off as they heal. Usually, people feel better within 2 to 4 weeks. But sometimes the virus can make a person severely ill.

How does monkeypox spread?

The monkeypox virus can spread from close contact with infected people or animals.

Someone can become infected if they:

  • Breathe in the virus.
  • Have contact with blood, body fluids (such as during sexual contact) or fluid from the blisters. 
  • Use bedding or other items contaminated by the virus.

It can take 5 to 21 days after exposure for symptoms to start, and the illness itself can last several weeks.

Should we worry about getting monkeypox?

So far, monkeypox infections are very rare. Previous outbreaks have ended quickly, without putting many people at risk of getting the infection.

Although a monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. is not a cause for alarm, parents should be aware of any new rashes or symptoms and contact their healthcare provider with any concerns.

Can monkeypox be prevented?

Smallpox vaccines are effective against monkeypox infection, and a vaccine created to prevent both smallpox and monkeypox is available if needed because of an outbreak.

As with many germs, washing hands well and often, masking, and avoiding contact with sick people and animals can help protect someone from getting sick.

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