How dangerous is monkeypox?

Monkeypox also known as mpox is a rare viral disease that can cause a range of symptoms in humans. While monkeypox is considered less severe than diseases like Ebola or smallpox, it can still pose health risks and has the potential to cause serious complications.

Monkeypox is primarily found in Central and West African countries, and it is primarily transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals, such as rodents or monkeys, or through close contact with infected humans. Human-to-human transmission can also occur, although it is generally less common.

Symptoms of monkeypox

The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than those of smallpox. They typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, and a rash that progresses to fluid-filled blisters.

The illness usually lasts for a few weeks, and most people recover without complications. However, in some cases, complications such as secondary bacterial infections or severe illness can arise, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.

The overall fatality rate for monkeypox is relatively low, estimated to be around 1% to 10%, with higher rates reported in certain outbreaks. The severity of the disease can vary depending on various factors, including the strain of the virus, the individual’s immune system response, and the availability of medical care.

How to prevent monkeypox infection

To prevent monkeypox infection, it is important to avoid contact with wild animals, especially those showing signs of illness.

Other preventive measures include practising good hand hygiene, using personal protective equipment when caring for infected individuals, and considering vaccination if available (although the smallpox vaccine can provide some cross-protection against monkeypox, there is also a specific monkeypox vaccine available in certain regions).

In summary, while monkeypox can be a serious illness, it is generally less severe than diseases like smallpox or Ebola. The key to reducing the risk of infection is to avoid contact with infected animals and practise good hygiene measures.

If you have concerns about monkeypox or suspect you may have been exposed, it is best to consult with healthcare professionals for proper evaluation and guidance.


Monkeypox was declared a public health emergency

The global outbreak of mpox was declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on July 23, 2022. WHO published a strategic preparedness and response plan for mpox and a suite of technical guidance documents.  Surveillance, diagnostics, risk communication and community engagement remain central to stopping the outbreak and eliminating human-to-human transmission of mpox in all contexts.

More information can be found here. Questions and answers are here and public health advice is here



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Monkeypox frequently asked questions

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an illness caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a viral zoonotic infection, meaning that it can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread from person to person.

Who may experience severe outcomes from the Monkeypox virus?

Monkeypox can cause a range of signs and symptoms.  While some people have mild symptoms, others may develop more serious symptoms and need care in a health facility. Those at higher risk for severe disease or complications include people who are pregnant, children and persons that are immunocompromised.


What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The most common symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. This is followed or accompanied by the development of a rash which can last for two to three weeks.

The rash can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body. The number of lesions can range from one to several thousand. Lesions begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath.

How long do the symptoms last?

Symptoms typically last two (2) to three (3) weeks and usually go away on their own or with supportive care, such as medication for pain or fever.

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How long can infected person remain infectious?

We are still learning about how long people with monkeypox are infectious for, but generally they are considered infectious until all of their lesions have crusted over, the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.

How does monkeypox spread from animals to humans?

Monkeypox can spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Animal hosts include rodents and primates.

How does monkeypox spread from person to person?

Close contact: Monkeypox spreads from person to person through close contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash, including through face-to-face, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-skin contact, including sexual contact.

Possible mechanisms of transmission through the air for monkeypox are not yet well understood and studies are underway to learn more.

Contaminated spaces: Environments can become contaminated with the monkeypox virus, for example when an infectious person touches clothing, bedding, towels, objects, electronics and surfaces. Someone else who touches these items can then become infected. 

It is also possible to become infected from breathing in skin flakes or virus from clothing, bedding or towels.

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What’s the risk to pregnant women and infants/children?

The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the foetus, after birth through skin-to-skin contact, or from a parent with monkeypox to an infant or child during close contact.  

Can someone have monkeypox and be asymptomatic?

Although asymptomatic infection has been reported, it is not clear whether people without any symptoms can spread the disease or whether it can spread through other bodily fluids. Research is underway to find out more.

Can people get seriously ill from monkeypox?

In most cases, the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks. However, in some people, an infection can lead to medical complications and even death. Newborn babies, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.  

What are some complications caused by monkeypox?

Complications from monkeypox include secondary skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye problems.

What is the death rate for monkeypox?

In the past, between 1% to 10% of people with monkeypox have died.  It is important to note that death rates in different settings may differ due to a number of factors, such as access to health care. These figures may be an overestimate because surveillance for monkeypox has generally been limited in the past. 

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Who is at risk at contracting monkeypox?

People who live with or have close contact (including sexual contact) with someone who has monkeypox, or who has regular contact with animals who could be infected, are most at risk.

Newborn infants, young children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms, and in rare cases, death from monkeypox.

Are health workers at risk of contracting monkeypox?

Yes. However, health workers should follow infection prevention and control measures to protect themselves while caring for monkeypox patients.

How can I protect myself and others against monkeypox?

To reduce your risk of catching monkeypox:

  • Limit close contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox, or with animals who could be infected.
  • Clean and disinfect environments that could have been contaminated with the virus from someone who is infectious regularly.
  • Keep yourself informed about monkeypox in your area and have open conversations with those you come into close contact (especially sexual contact) with about any symptoms you or they may have.

What should I do if I think I may have monkeypox symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has monkeypox?

If you have had close contact with someone who has monkeypox or an environment that may have been contaminated with the virus, you should:

  • monitor yourself closely for signs and symptoms for 21 days after the time you were last exposed.
  • Limit close contact with other people as much as you can, and when it is unavoidable let your contact know that you have been exposed to monkeypox.
  • Contact your healthcare provider for advice, testing and medical care. Until you receive your test result, isolate yourself from others if possible.
  • Clean your hands regularly.

If you suspect you have monkeypox or been exposed to someone with monkeypox, you should contact your nearest health facility.

If I have monekypox, what should I do to protect other people from getting infected?

If you have monkeypox, your healthcare provider will advise if you should be cared for in hospital or at home. This will depend on how serious your symptoms are, whether you have risk factors that put you at risk for more serious symptoms, and whether you can minimise the risk of infecting anyone you live with.

If you are advised to isolate at home, you should not go out. Protect others you live with as much as possible by:

  • Isolating in a separate room
  • Using a separate bathroom, or cleaning after each use
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces with soap and water and a household disinfectant and avoiding sweeping/vacuuming (this might disturb virus particles and cause others to become infected)
  • Using separate utensils, towels, bedding and electronics
  • Doing your own laundry (lift bedding, clothes and towels carefully without shaking them, put materials in a plastic bag before carrying it to the washing machine and wash them with hot water > 60 degrees)
  • Opening windows for good ventilation
  • Encouraging everyone in the house to clean their hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

If you cannot avoid being in the same room as someone else or having close contact with another person while isolating at home, then do your best to limit their risk by:

  • Avoiding touching each other
  • Cleaning your hands often
  • Covering your rash with clothing or bandages
  • Opening windows throughout the home
  • Ensuring you and anyone in the room with you wear well-fitting medical masks
  • Maintaining at least 1 meter of distance.
  • If you cannot do your own laundry and someone else needs to do it for you, they should wear a well-fitting medical mask, disposable gloves and take the laundry precautions listed above. 

Is there a vaccine against monkeypox?

Yes, a vaccine was recently approved for preventing monkeypox.

  • Only people who are at risk (for example someone who has been a close contact of someone who has monkeypox) should be considered for vaccination.
  • Mass vaccination is not recommended at this time.

How effective is the smallpox vaccine against monkeypox?

While the smallpox vaccine was shown to be protective against monkeypox in the past, current data on the effectiveness of newer smallpox/monkeypox vaccines in the prevention of monkeypox in clinical practice and in field settings are limited. Studying the use of vaccines for monkeypox wherever they are used will allow for rapid generation of additional information on the effectiveness of these vaccines in different settings. 

What is the treatment for people with monkeypox?

People with monkeypox should follow the advice of their health care provider. Symptoms normally resolve on their own without the need for treatment. If needed, medication for pain (analgesics) and fever (antipyretics) can be used to relieve some symptoms. 

Additionally, if you are being treated for monkeypox:

  • Persons must stay hydrated, eat well, and get enough sleep.
  • Persons who are self-isolating should take care of their mental health by doing things they find relaxing and enjoyable, staying connected to loved ones using technology, exercising if they feel well enough and can do so while isolating, and asking for support with their mental health if they need it.
  • Persons with monkeypox should avoid scratching their skin and take care of their rash by cleaning their hands before and after touching lesions and keeping skin dry and uncovered (unless they are unavoidably in a room with someone else, in which case they should cover it with clothing or a bandage until they are able to isolate again).
  • Persons should keep their rashes clean with sterilised water or antiseptic. Saltwater rinses can be used for lesions in the mouth, and warm baths with baking soda and Epsom salts can help with lesions on the body. Lidocaine can be applied to oral and perianal lesions to relieve pain.
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Have there been any medical developments for the treatment of monkeypox?

Many years of research on therapeutics for smallpox have led to development of products that may also be useful for treating monkeypox.  An antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat) was approved in January 2022 by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of monkeypox.

Experience with these therapeutics in the context of an outbreak of monkeypox is limited. For this reason, their use is usually accompanied by collection of information that will improve knowledge on how best to use them in future.

Can children get monkeypox?

Children can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone who has symptoms.  Data from previously affected countries show that children are typically more prone to severe disease than adolescents and adults.  

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Have any children been infected with monkeypox with the recent outbreak?

Yes, worldwide there have been a small number of children with monkeypox in the current outbreak.

However, there have not been any confirmed cases of the monkeypox virus in Trinidad and Tobago thus far.



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