By Dr. Christopher Langan, MD.
Monkeypox is an infection caused by a virus in the same family as smallpox. Smallpox was a severe and deadly disease that we eradicated from the Earth in 1980 thanks to vaccination efforts. Fortunately, Monkeypox symptoms are milder and rarely fatal compared to smallpox, and Monkeypox does not spread easily.
Symptoms of Monkeypox
Symptoms of Monkeypox include:
- Muscle pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
The rash will look like pimples or blisters and can appear on the face, in the mouth, and on other parts of the body such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals, and anus.
The rash lasts about 2-4 weeks, will turn into small fluid-filled blisters, and then crater and scab after the blisters open up. Some people will only get the rash, while others will have the rash with other symptoms.
Over 99% of people who get Monkeypox will survive.
Risk factors for Severe Monkeypox Disease
Risk factors for severe Monkeypox disease include:
- Young children under the age of 8
- Weakened immune system as seen in people with untreated HIV disease
How Monkeypox is Spread
Monkeypox does not spread easily, and one usually has to be in close contact with someone who has Monkeypox in order to contract the disease.
The virus can spread from person to person when in direct contact with fluid from the blisters or scabs, as well as prolonged face-to-face contact during intimate contact. Pregnant women can also transmit the virus to their fetuses.
Touching fluid from clothing or linen that is contaminated by fluid from blisters is also a potential way to contract the virus.
What to do if You Are Infected with Monkeypox
It is extremely important if you get Monkeypox to quarantine until the rash is fully healed.
Never touch the rash or scabs of someone who has Monkeypox, and do not share food or utensils with anyone who has the rash. Do not handle or touch bedding or linens of someone who has Monkeypox.
Vaccines used to prevent smallpox can provide protection against Monkeypox. However, they are not currently widely available in Texas, and only those recently exposed are eligible for the vaccine which is administered by the Department of Health.
There are also anti-viral medications designed for smallpox that can also be used against Monkeypox, but they are only given in the hospital setting and are also not widely available.
Monkeypox Testing at SignatureCare Emergency Center
At SignatureCare Emergency Center, we are able to provide testing for Monkeypox if our Emergency Physician feels you have a rash consistent with the disease.
Testing will take approximately 5 days before the result is finalized and available. Remember, most Monkeypox care is supportive and no specific medications will be given in the ER setting other than those medications to alleviate symptoms you may have associated with the rash.
For further questions or guidance regarding Monkeypox or the vaccine, residents can call their local Health Department. For Harris County, the Monkeypox hotline is 832-927-0707.
Dr. Christopher Langan, MD is a Emergency Medicine Specialist in Houston, TX. He has over 20 years of experience in the medical field. He graduated from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 2002. Dr. Langan is currently the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SignatureCare Emergency Center in Houston, TX.