Monkeypox: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

The disease known as monkeypox is caused by a virus that is contagious and can affect both humans and some other animals. A rash that first appears as blisters and later crusts over is one of the symptoms, along with a fever and enlarged lymph nodes. Between five and twenty-one days might pass between the moment of exposure and the manifestation of symptoms. In most cases, the length of the symptoms is between two and four weeks. It’s possible that you won’t even notice any symptoms at all, even if you could have some moderate discomfort. It has been discovered that the characteristic presentation of shingles, which consists of fever and muscular aches, followed by swollen glands, and lesions all occurring at the same stage, is not present in every outbreak. Cases may be severe, particularly when they occur in infants, pregnant women, or persons whose immune systems have been weakened.

This illness is brought on by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the genus Orthopoxvirus and is a zoonotic virus. This genus also contains the variola virus, which is responsible for causing the disease known as smallpox. When it comes to people, the kind that originates in West Africa produces a sickness that is less severe than the type that originates in Central Africa (the Congo basin). It can be transmitted from infected animals through the handling of infected meat or through bites, scratches, or scrapes. Transmission from one people to another can take place through contact with infected bodily fluids or things that are contaminated, through the exchange of microscopic droplets, and potentially even through the air. People are able to transfer the virus from the time symptoms first appear until all of the lesions have crusted over and fallen off; nevertheless, there is evidence of dissemination for more than a week after lesions have crusted. The diagnosis can be verified by doing a DNA test on a lesion to look for the virus.

Monkeypox: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

There is currently no recognised treatment or cure for this. In a research that was conducted in 1988, it was discovered that the smallpox vaccination had a protective efficacy of about 85 percent when it came to avoiding infection in close contacts and reducing the severity of the disease. A more recent vaccination against smallpox and monkeypox that is based on modified vaccinia Ankara has been authorised, but there is only a limited supply of it. In addition, it is important to wash your hands frequently and stay away from ill individuals as well as other animals. During an outbreak, antiviral medications like as cidofovir and tecovirimat, as well as vaccinia immune globulin and the smallpox vaccination, may be administered. The majority of people who have the sickness will feel better within a few weeks even if they do not receive treatment, as the condition is often not severe. Estimates of the risk of mortality range from 1 percent to 10 percent, however there have been very few fatalities documented as a result of monkeypox since 2017.

In 1958, laboratory monkeys in Copenhagen, Denmark, were the first to exhibit symptoms of a disease that would later be dubbed “monkeypox.” It is hypothesised that a number of different animal species serve as a natural reservoir for the virus. Instances have considerably increased since the 1980s, probably as a result of losing immunity after the routine smallpox vaccine was stopped. In the past, it was believed that it was uncommon in humans; nevertheless, cases have significantly increased since that time. In 1970, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the location where researchers discovered the first cases of the disease in people (DRC). There have been isolated instances reported throughout Central and West Africa, but the Democratic Republic of the Congo is where the disease is most prevalent. The initial case of widespread community transmission outside of Africa was discovered in the United Kingdom in May 2022, and subsequent cases have been confirmed in at least 74 countries across all continents, with the exception of Antarctica. The outbreak of monkeypox in 2022 represents this first instance of widespread community transmission outside of Africa. More than 16,000 cases have been recorded across 75 countries and territories, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue a declaration on July 23 that the epidemic constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

monkeypox a global emergency

Monkeypox overviews

Specialty Infectious disease
Symptoms Fever, headache, muscle pains, shivering, blistering rash, swollen lymph nodes
Complications Secondary infections, eye infection, visual loss, scarring encephalitis, sepsis bronchopneumonia
Usual onset 5–21 days post exposure
Duration 2 to 4 weeks
Types Central African (Congo Basin), West African
Causes Monkeypox virus
Diagnostic method Testing for viral DNA
Differential diagnosis Chickenpox, smallpox
Prevention Smallpox vaccine, hand washing, covering rash, PPE, keeping away from sick people
Treatment Supportive, antivirals, vaccinia immune globulin
Medication Tecovirimat
Prognosis Most recover
Frequency Not as rare as previously thought
Deaths up to 3.6% (Western Africa clade), up to 10.6% (Congo Basin clade, untreated)

Key facts

  • The vaccines that were administered as a part of the attempt to eradicate smallpox also gave protection against monkeypox. There are recent developments in vaccine technology, one among which has been licenced for use in the prevention of monkeypox.
  • The monkeypox virus is what’s liable for the disease, and it belongs to the family Poxviridae and therefore the genus Orthopoxvirus.
  • In most cases, monkeypox may be a self-limiting illness, with symptoms typically lasting between two and 4 weeks. Severe instances can occur. In recent years, the case fatality ratio has hovered around between three and 6 percent.
  • It is possible for a human to get monkeypox by coming into intimate contact with an infected person or animal, or by coming into touch with an object that has been contaminated with the virus.
  • The monkeypox virus are often passed from one person to another by lesions, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated things like bedding that come into intimate contact with the infected individual.
  • The virus that causes monkeypox may be a zoonotic illness that is most commonly seen in the tropical rainforest regions of central and west Africa. However, the disease is occasionally delivered to other parts of the world.
  • Antiviral medication that was originally created for the treatment of smallpox is now approved to be used in the treatment of monkeypox as well.
  • The clinical manifestations of monkeypox are quite almost like those of smallpox, an illness caused by a related orthopoxvirus that was thought to possess been eliminated from the world in 1980. The symptoms of monkeypox are milder than those caused by smallpox, and therefore the disease is less infectious.
  • The clinical manifestations of monkeypox often include fever, a rash, and enlarged lymph nodes. Additionally, monkeypox can cause a spread of medical issues.


Monkeypox may be a viral zoonosis, which suggests it is a virus that is transferred to people from animals. it’s symptoms that are comparable to those that were observed in the past in individuals who were suffering from smallpox, despite the very fact that it is clinically less severe. As a results of the successful eradication of smallpox in 1980 and the subsequent discontinuation of smallpox immunisation, monkeypox has become the foremost significant orthopoxvirus in terms of its impact on public health. The monkeypox virus is most ordinarily found in central and western Africa, frequently in close proximity to tropical rainforests. Recently, however, cases are reported in urban settings as well. The virus may infect a spread of rodents and non-human primates besides humans.


The infective agent

The monkeypox virus may be a member of the Poxviridae family and is classified as an enveloped, double-stranded DNA virus. it’s a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus. There are two separate genetic clades of the monkeypox virus. These clades are referred to as the west African clade and the central African (Congo Basin) clade. within the past, diseases produced by the Congo Basin clade were known to be more severe, and researchers believed that they were also more contagious. Cameroon is that the only nation in which both viral clades have been discovered, hence geographically speaking, it is the dividing line between the two virus subclades.

Primitive reservoir of the monkeypox virus

Researchers have shown that the monkeypox virus may infect a good variety of different animal species. This includes species like rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, also as other non-human primates and animals. there’s still a great deal of mystery surrounding the natural history of the monkeypox virus, and further research is required so as to locate the specific reservoir(s) and determine how viral circulation is kept alive in the wild.


The first case of human monkeypox was discovered in a person in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The case involved a 9-month-old boy and happened in an area of the country where smallpox had been eradicated in 1968. Since then, the overwhelming majority of cases have been recorded from rural and rainforest parts of the Congo Basin, mainly within the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and human cases have progressively been reported from across central and West Africa .

Since 1970, cases of monkeypox in humans are reported in 11 different African countries, including Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast , Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone , and South Sudan. These countries are listed within the following order: It is not known how severely monkeypox can affect a person. as an example within the years 1996–1997, the Democratic Republic of the Congo saw a plague that had an abnormally high attack rate but a lower case fatality ratio than is typical for the disease. the invention of a concurrent outbreak of chickenpox (which is caused by the varicella virus, which isn’t an orthopoxvirus) and monkeypox may explain real or apparent alterations in the transmission dynamics of the disease in this instance. Since 2017, Nigeria has been handling a significant epidemic, with over 500 suspected cases, over 200 confirmed cases, and an approximate case fatality ratio of three percent. Cases still be recorded until now.

Because nations throughout west and central Africa, as well as the rest of the world, are susceptible to monkeypox, the illness is considered to be of worldwide relevance to the field of public health. The United States of America witnessed the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa in 2003. This outbreak was traced down to contact with sick prairie dogs kept as pets. These domesticated animals had been kept in the same enclosure as dormice and Gambian pouched rats that had been brought into the nation from Ghana. This epidemic resulted in more than 70 cases of monkeypox being diagnosed in the United States. Travelers from Nigeria have also been reported to have contracted monkeypox in Israel in September 2018, in the United Kingdom in September 2018, December 2019, May 2021, and May 2022, in Singapore in May 2019, and in the United States of America in July and November 2021. All of these countries are located in Southeast Asia. In May of 2022, many instances of monkeypox were found in a number of nations that were not endemic for the disease. Research projects are now being carried out in order to gain a better understanding of the epidemiology, sources of infection, and patterns of transmission.


Direct contact with the blood, body fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of an animal that is diseased, as well as animal-to-human transmission (also known as zoonotic transmission), are all potential routes of zoonotic disease transmission. Evidence of infection with the monkeypox virus has been discovered in a wide variety of animals across the continent of Africa. These animals include rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, and many kinds of monkeys. The natural reservoir of monkeypox has not been determined; nevertheless, rodents seem to be the most plausible candidates for this role. Consuming meat and other animal products derived from infected animals that has not been sufficiently prepared is one of the potential risk factors. People who live in wooded regions or in close proximity to such places may have indirect or low-level exposure to animals that are afflicted.

Transmission from one human to another can take place through close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions, or recently contaminated objects. Human-to-human transmission can also take place through close contact with infected animals. Transmission of the disease by droplet respiratory particles often requires prolonged face-to-face contact. Because of this, health care personnel, household members, and other close contacts of active patients are at a heightened risk. In spite of this, the longest reported chain of transmission in a community has increased from six to nine successive person-to-person infections in the course of the last few years. This might be a reflection of decreased immunity across all groups as a result of the termination of smallpox vaccinations. Transmission can also take place from the mother to the foetus through the placenta, which can result in congenital monkeypox, or by intimate contact before, during, or after the birthing process. It is currently unknown whether or not monkeypox can be transmitted specifically through sexual transmission routes. Although it is well-known that close physical contact is a risk factor for transmission, it is currently unknown whether or not monkeypox can be transmitted specifically through sexual transmission routes. More research is required to have a better grasp on this danger.

Indicators and manifestations

The incubation period of monkeypox, which refers to the amount of time that passes between infection and the beginning of symptoms, is typically between 5 and 21 days, but it can range anywhere from 5 to 13 days.

Two distinct phases of the infection can be distinguished:

the invasion stage is marked by symptoms such as fever, strong headache, lymphadenopathy (swelling of the lymph nodes), back pain, myalgia (muscle pains), and acute asthenia. This period can continue anywhere from 0 to 5 days (lack of energy). Lymphadenopathy is a distinguishing characteristic of monkeypox in comparison to other illnesses that could at first glance appear to be identical (chickenpox, measles, smallpox)

In most cases, the rash appears anywhere from one to three days after the fever first manifests itself. The rash is more likely to be widespread on the limbs and face than it is on the trunk. In nearly all instances, it manifests on the face, in addition to the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet (in 75 percent of cases). In addition to the cornea, the oral mucous membranes are damaged in 70% of cases, the genitalia in 30% of cases, and the conjunctivae in 20% of cases. The rash progresses from macules, which are lesions with a flat base, to papules, which are slightly elevated hard lesions, to vesicles, which are lesions filled with clear fluid, to pustules, which are lesions filled with yellowish fluid, and then finally to crusts, which dry out and fall off. There may be as few as a few hundred or as many as several thousand lesions. When the condition is severe, the lesions can join together and spread until big parts of the skin flake off.

In most cases, monkeypox is a self-limiting illness, with symptoms typically lasting between two and four weeks. The degree of the patient’s viral exposure, the patient’s current health state, and the type of the complications are all factors that might play a role in the severity of their illness. It’s possible that underlying immunological weaknesses will cause results to be worse. People younger than 40 to 50 years of age (depending on the country) may be more susceptible to monkeypox today as a result of the cessation of smallpox vaccination campaigns globally after the disease was eradicated. This is despite the fact that vaccination against smallpox was protective in the past. Vaccination against smallpox was effective. There are a number of complications that can arise as a result of monkeypox. These include secondary infections, bronchopneumonia, sepsis, encephalitis, and infections of the cornea, which can lead to a loss of eyesight. It is unknown how often asymptomatic infections are or how widespread they might be.

The case fatality ratio of monkeypox has traditionally fluctuated anywhere from 0% to 11% in the general population, with the rate being significantly higher among younger children. In recent years, the case fatality ratio has hovered around between three and six percent.


Other disorders that cause rashes, such as chickenpox, measles, bacterial skin infections, scabies, syphilis, and medication-associated allergies, are part of the clinical differential diagnosis that has to be examined. During the prodromal stage of disease, lymphadenopathy might be a clinical sign that differentiates monkeypox from chickenpox or smallpox. Smallpox and chickenpox do not cause lymphadenopathy.

In the event that health professionals suspect monkeypox, they should obtain an adequate sample and ensure that it is transmitted in a secure manner to a laboratory that has the necessary capabilities. The diagnosis of monkeypox is contingent on the nature of the material, its quality, and the specific laboratory test that is performed. Consequently, specimens need to be packaged and transported in a manner that is compliant with both national and international regulations. Due to its precision and sensitivity, the polymerase chain reaction, often known as PCR, is the test of choice in the laboratory. For this purpose, the best diagnostic samples for monkeypox come from skin lesions, including dry crusts, the roofs of vesicles and pustules, and any fluid that may be present. When it is medically necessary, a biopsy may be performed. It is imperative that lesion samples be preserved under refrigeration and in a sterile, dry tube (with no viral transport medium). Because of the relatively brief period of viremia in comparison to the time at which specimens are obtained following the onset of symptoms, PCR blood tests are typically inconclusive and hence should not be regularly collected from patients.

Antigen and antibody detection techniques do not offer definitive proof that monkeypox has been contracted since orthopoxviruses are serologically cross-reactive. Because of this, using serology and other antigen detection procedures for diagnosis or case inquiry is not suggested in situations where there are limited resources. Vaccination with a vaccinia-based vaccine, either in the recent past or in the distant past (for example, anyone who was vaccinated prior to the eradication of smallpox or more recently vaccinated due to a higher risk, such as orthopoxvirus laboratory personnel), can also result in false positive results.

It is essential that patient information be provided along with the specimens in order to properly interpret the test results. This information should include the following: a) the date that the fever first appeared, b) the date that the rash first appeared, c) the date that the specimens were collected, d) the current status of the individual (stage of the rash), and e) their age.


The clinical care for monkeypox should be properly maximised so that symptoms may be relieved, problems can be managed, and long-term consequences are avoided. Patients need to be supplied both water and meals in order to keep their nutritional status at an acceptable level. Treatment for secondary bacterial infections must be administered as directed. Based on the findings of animal and human research, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2022 granted approval for the use of the antiviral medication known as tecovirimat to treat monkeypox. This agent had originally been designed to treat smallpox. It is not yet available to a large number of people.

If tecovirimat is to be utilised for the purpose of patient care, then it should ideally be monitored within the context of clinical research with prospective data collecting.


Several observational studies have shown that vaccination against smallpox is around 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox. This information was gleaned via vaccination against smallpox. Therefore, previous immunisation against smallpox may result in a less severe sickness. A scar on the upper arm is often what serves as evidence that a person has previously been vaccinated against smallpox. The first vaccinations against smallpox, often known as those of the first generation, are not now made available to the general population. There is a possibility that certain members of the laboratory staff or health professionals have been immunised against smallpox with a more up-to-date vaccine in order to protect themselves in the event that they are exposed to orthopoxviruses on the job. In 2019, the FDA gave its blessing to a more recent vaccination for the prevention of monkeypox that is derived from a modified attenuated strain of the vaccinia virus called the Ankara strain. This vaccination requires two doses, and there are still restrictions on its availability. Due to the fact that the vaccinia virus affords cross-protection for the immune response to orthopoxviruses, smallpox and monkeypox vaccines are created in formulations that are based on the vaccinia virus.


The primary method for preventing monkeypox consists of increasing people’s knowledge of the variables that put them at risk and teaching them on the steps they may take to lower their chance of becoming infected with the virus. Research projects in the realm of science are currently under way to investigate the practicability and applicability of vaccination for the purpose of monkeypox prevention and control. Some nations already have rules in place, while others are in the process of formulating such policies, to ensure that those who may be at risk, such as those who work in laboratories, emergency response teams, and health care facilities, are offered vaccinations.

lowering the likelihood of disease spreading from person to person

It is absolutely necessary to conduct surveillance and quickly identify any new cases in order to limit an outbreak. When there are outbreaks of monkeypox among humans, the greatest major risk factor for contracting the virus is having intimate contact with someone who is already afflicted. Those who work in healthcare and those who live in households are at a higher risk of infection. Health care professionals who are treating patients with a suspected or confirmed infection with the monkeypox virus, or who are handling specimens from these patients, should take the customary measures for infection control. People who have been vaccinated against smallpox in the past should be chosen, if at all feasible, to provide care for the patient.

Samples collected from people and animals suspected of having an infection with the monkeypox virus should only be handled by qualified personnel working in labs that are appropriately equipped. In order to ensure that patient specimens are not compromised during travel, triple packing must be used, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the transportation of infectious substances.

The discovery in May 2022 of clusters of monkeypox patients in various nations that do not have an endemic population and that have no direct travel ties to a region where the disease is found is highly unusual. Additional studies are currently being conducted in order to identify the most likely source of the virus and stop its future spread. In order to ensure that the population’s health is not put at risk while the cause of this outbreak is being examined, it is essential to consider any and all conceivable channels of transmission. This link has further information about the outbreak that has been going on.

Eliminating or minimising the likelihood of zoonotic transmission

Over the course of history, the principal mode of transmission from animals to humans has been responsible for the majority of human illnesses. Avoid coming into unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are injured or have passed away; this includes consuming their flesh, blood, and other body parts. In addition, before consuming any meal, it must be cooked completely through if it contains animal flesh or other components of animals.

Limiting the movement of animals can help prevent the spread of monkeypox.

The importing of non-human primates and rodents is restricted in several nations as a result of rules that have been placed in place. It is imperative that any captive animals suspected of carrying monkeypox be quarantined as soon as possible and kept separate from other animals in the facility. Any animals that have a potential risk of coming into touch with an infected animal should be isolated, treated with the appropriate level of caution, and monitored for a period of one month for signs of monkeypox.

How the monkeypox virus is related to the smallpox virus

The clinical manifestations of monkeypox are strikingly similar to those of smallpox, another illness caused by a related orthopoxvirus that has been eliminated. The disease was more contagious and frequently lethal, claiming the lives of almost one third of those who contracted it. The final incidence of naturally acquired smallpox was recorded in 1977, and in 1980, following a worldwide campaign of vaccination and containment, it was announced that smallpox had been eliminated from all parts of the world. Vaccination against smallpox with vaccinia-based vaccines has been discontinued in every country on a routine basis for at least the past 40 years. Since immunisation also protects against monkeypox in west and central Africa, populations that have not been vaccinated are now now more likely to contract an infection caused by the monkeypox virus.

Even though naturally occurring smallpox is no longer a threat, the health industry throughout the world continues to be on high alert in case the disease might reemerge due to natural causes, a laboratory accident, or purposeful release. New vaccinations, diagnostics, and antiviral medications are now in the process of being developed in order to guarantee that the entire world is prepared in the event that smallpox reappears. These could also be helpful in the future for the prevention and treatment of monkeypox.