Answers to your most frequently asked monkeypox questions
August 05, 2022
Image of monkeypox

    As COVID continues to demand infection prevention precautions, monkeypox is also making its way around the world and has recently been declared a public health emergency.

    Dr. Suzanne Lavoie, infectious diseases specialist, explains what families need to know about monkeypox.

    What is monkeypox and what are the symptoms?

    Monkeypox is a virus that causes a disease similar to smallpox. The most common symptoms are:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Painful rash that starts with red spots and transitions to pus-filled blisters

    How contagious is monkeypox?

    Monkeypox is less contagious than COVID-19, but it’s still a public health concern.

    Monkeypox can spread from:

    • Human to human by respiratory droplets from exhaling, coughing, sneezing, speaking or singing; or through contact with bodily fluids directly or by touching an item that contains the fluids like bedding or towels
    • Animal to human through a bite, scratch or contact with bodily fluids

    The virus can enter the body through broken skin, mucous membranes or the respiratory tract. Only people with monkeypox symptoms are contagious and they’re able to spread the virus from the time symptoms begin until the rash is fully healed.

    How common is monkeypox in kids?

    Thankfully there have been very few cases of monkeypox among kids and teens in the United States and they’ve been mild. It’s important to note though that children under 8, people with immune conditions and pregnant people may be at higher risk of severe illness if they do get it.

    Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

    There is not a “monkeypox” vaccine. However, because monkeypox and smallpox are so closely related, we can use one of two smallpox vaccines to protect against monkeypox. Given the limited supply, the CDC currently only recommends vaccine for people who have been exposed to the virus. This is referred to as a post-exposure prophylaxis and is most effective when given within four days of exposure.

    People at high risk of exposure to monkeypox, including men who have sex with men or transgender females who have sex with men, are encouraged to check with the health department about getting a vaccine as well. It may be recommended for health care workers to receive a vaccine as well in the coming weeks or months depending on how the outbreak evolves.

    Are there other ways families can protect from monkeypox?

    The best approach is to try to prevent exposure to the virus. The following steps will help:

    • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially before eating and after using the bathroom
    • Avoid sharing or handling cups, utensils, bedding, clothing or towels used by someone with monkeypox
    • Avoid physical contact with people who have a rash that appears to be monkeypox
    • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

    If your child shows symptoms of monkeypox, check in with their pediatrician or other health care provider. They’ll examine the rash and may recommend a skin swab to test for monkeypox. If the test is positive, they can coordinate treatment with an anti-viral medication. They can also recommend over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen and other approaches to help relieve symptoms, which usually last about two to four weeks.

    Keep up with the latest news to keep your family healthy and happy.

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