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The Monkeypox Disease

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. In this blog post, you will find everything you need to know about monkeypox.



The disease was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then monkeypox has been reported in humans in other central and western African countries including Nigeria.


What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus that belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. It spreads mostly across the central and western parts of Africa.


The natural reservoir of monkeypox remains unknown. However, rodent species are expected to play a role in transmission. There are two distinct genetic groups (clades) of monkeypox virus—Central African and West African. West African monkeypox is associated with milder disease, fewer deaths, and limited human-to-human transmission.


Monkeypox can cause fatal illness in humans, although it is much milder than smallpox. Although there is no treatment or vaccine available for monkeypox, smallpox vaccination has been highly effective in preventing monkeypox.


Signs & Symptoms


The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days. The disease begins with:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion


Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body.

Lesions progress through the following stages before falling off:

  • Macules
  • Papules
  • Vesicles
  • Pustules
  • Scabs

The illness typically lasts for 2−4 weeks. Monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease.


Transmission of monkeypox virus occurs when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). Animal-to-human transmission may occur by bite or scratch, bush meat preparation, direct contact with body fluids or lesion material, or indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated bedding. Human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact is required. Other human-to-human methods of transmission include direct contact with body fluids or lesion material, and indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linens.



  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead).
  • Avoid small mammals and monkeys.
  • Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal.
  • Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.



Currently, there is no proven, specific, safe treatment for monkeypox virus infection. There are no vaccines or medications. However, vaccination against smallpox has been proven to be effective in preventing monkeypox in the past and preventing its spread.





Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monkeypox (assessed October 2017)


World Health Orgsisation Monkeypox, Media Center (assessed October 2017)