Thread Health on Monkeypox

Aug 3, 2023

When monkeypox cases rise, many teens (and their parents) wonder, “Could I get infected?” Reassuringly, practicing good hygiene and taking usual flu-season precautions can help prevent the spread of this rare illness.

For now, it seems the risk of children and teens getting infected with monkeypox virus is low. Teens are more likely to be exposed to monkeypox if they live in or have recently spent time in a community with higher rates of infection. The majority of infections have occurred in certain adult populations, including those who are sexually active.While monkeypox may sound worrisome, rest assured that our Adolescent Medicine doctors are always ready to answer questions, evaluate symptoms, and help connect you with resources such as testing or vaccination, if needed.

-Dr. Olga Myszko, Thread Health MD

The Monkeypox Details→ What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease caused by monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is in the same family of viruses that causes smallpox, an infection that has been eradicated. Monkeypox got its name because it was first discovered in research laboratory monkeys, but the source is not known.

What are the Symptoms of Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is rarely severe or fatal. Symptoms start within three weeks of being exposed to the virus. The symptoms are generally mild and flu-like, including:

  • Fevers or chills

  • Headaches

  • Sore throat

  • Cough or congestion

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Body aches

  • Fatigue

  • Rash involving the hands, feet, chest, face, mouth, or any other part of the body including the genitals and anus

Most people will have a rash which usually appears up to five days AFTER the flu-like symptoms start. For some people, the rash may be the only symptom. The rash may appear differently from person to person and will go through different stages over time as it heals.

How is Monkeypox Spread & Treatment?

Monkeypox is commonly transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Examples include intimate/sexual encounters, hugging, or kissing. Touching contaminated surfaces, objects, toys, or fabrics (including clothing, towels, and bedding) can also spread the virus, including using products made from endemic African animals (such as game meat, lotions, creams, or powders).

Monkeypox can also be transmitted by oral secretions, such as coughing, sneezing, or sharing food utensils.

Overall, monkeypox spreads less easily than other viruses, including COVID-19.

Most people will recover fully on their own within two to four weeks, without any specific treatment. For those with high-risk conditions, such as a weakened immune system or certain skin conditions, there is antiviral treatment, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), which a doctor may prescribe when indicated.

How Can I Protect Myself?

  • Wash your hands often

  • Adopt safer sex practices

  • Avoid crowded spaces where possible

  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces in the household

Because monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, the smallpox vaccine appears to also work against monkeypox. Vaccines are currently recommended and available to adults at least 18 years old with high-risk exposure. The CDC recommends that the vaccine be given within days of a high-risk exposure as a form of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to help prevent disease.

While there is currently no need or recommendation for universal vaccination against monkeypox, it is important to protect yourself from all other preventable illnesses so that you remain healthy. The best recommendation is to keep up to date with your routine vaccinations including the COVID vaccines to avoid vaccine-preventable diseases including severe COVID-19.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have Been Exposed?

In the rare instance you think you have been exposed to monkeypox or are developing possible symptoms, contact your healthcare provider or visit a local urgent care and/or emergency center for further evaluation. Testing may include swabbing the rash, blood, throat, and/or urine. Your provider will be able to arrange for testing or PEP vaccination if necessary.

While monkeypox may sound worrisome, rest assured that our Adolescent Medicine doctors are always ready to answer questions, evaluate symptoms, and help connect you with resources such as testing or vaccination, if needed. Log in to Thread Health anytime to start a visit.

For additional information, you can also check the following resources:

NYC Health-Monkeypox

CDC and Monkeypox

<a href="">Image by 8photo</a> on Freepik