On Friday, Texas health officials announced that a Dallas resident was hospitalized after contracting monkeypox during a recent overseas trip, reports The New York Times. The resident is currently in stable condition, but health officials are rushing to identify other passengers who were on the same international and domestic flight with the resident upon their return to the country.
But just how dangerous is monkeypox, and is there now a risk of a wide-scale outbreak? Here’s all that you need to know about the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- What is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus that is genetically related to smallpox and cowpox. The virus was first discovered in lab monkeys in Denmark in 1958. By 1970 the first human case of monkeypox was identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, there have been small outbreaks of fewer than a dozen people in some African nations, as well as Western and Asian nations.
- Have there been larger outbreaks of Monkeypox? Yes. While most outbreaks include fewer than a dozen infections, since 1970 there have been around 1,000 monkeypox cases per year in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And since 2017, there have been 446 confirmed cases in Nigeria.
- Has monkeypox happened in America before? Yes. In 2003 there was an outbreak of monkeypox in the U.S. which infected 47 people. As of now, the patient in Texas is the only one known to be infected with monkeypox this time.
- What are the symptoms of monkeypox? They are similar to smallpox but less severe. Fever, muscle ache, headache, and exhaustion are all common symptoms. But unlike with smallpox, with monkeypox, the lymph nodes swell. The patient also develops a rash over their face and body, which then scabs over.
- How long do symptoms start after infection? Between one to two weeks on average. But the CDC says symptoms can begin as soon as five days or as late as three weeks later.
- How is monkeypox spread? Mainly through broken skin (such as getting scratched by an animal that has monkeypox), through the respiratory system, or through mucus membranes that come into contact with the virus, such as the eyes, mouth, and nose.
- What are the preventative measures for monkeypox? Social distancing from those infected and wearing face masks and other personal protective equipment when around patients.
- Is there a cure for monkeypox and is it deadly? As of now, there is no cure or vaccine for monkeypox. The virus will kill as many as 1 out of every 10 people it infects.
- How worried should I be? For now, not very. With only one case in the U.S. and that person being monitored in the hospital, the chances of being infected are very, very low. This goes even for the people who were on the same two planes with the infected patient. Why? Though monkeypox can be spread through respiratory droplets, people on those two planes were required to wear masks during the entire flight. In other words, COVID-19 precautions may have helped nip this monkeypox outbreak in the bud before it even got started.