You may have heard about the monkeypox virus outbreak, and if you’re anything like me, you immediately became concerned, worrying we’re on the brink of another global pandemic. Fear not, dear reader, because monkeypox, while contagious and currently going around, is not fatal or even nearly as contagious as smallpox.

Monkeypox is a virus that is part of the smallpox family, but it has milder symptoms and is far less contagious than smallpox. It is also very rarely fatal.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, fatigue, and finally, a rash with pimple- or blister-like bumps that is red and itchy. It can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, inside of the mouth, hands, feet, chest, genitals and anus.

How is monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox is spread from close skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected with the virus. The virus is spread through direct contact with someone’s rash, scabs, or body fluids. It’s not yet clear if monkeypox can be spread through semen or vaginal fluids, so it isn’t yet considered a sexually transmitted disease, even though it is spread through close contact. It can also be spread through respiratory secretions from face-to-face contact or during physical intimacy such as kissing, cuddling, or sex. 

You could also possibly get the virus by touching clothing that has been on the rash of the infected person. Pregnant people can also spread it to their fetus through the placenta or during birth. You can also get monkeypox from an animal that is infected. Monkeypox can spread from the onset of the rash, all the way through the end of symptoms. 

What is it like to have monkeypox?

People infected with monkeypox are sick typically for 2-4 weeks. It is best to isolate while you’re infected since it spreads through skin-to-skin contact. You can visit your doctor to get an official diagnosis and perhaps get topical treatment such as ointment for the discomfort and itching. To get diagnosed, visit your doctor where you’ll receive an examination where they will ask you questions about your health history, look at the rash, and either take a sample of the tissue or perform a blood test. Usually, symptoms are mild enough that no further treatment is necessary other than ointments and physically isolating so you don’t spread it.

There has been an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States this summer, so the CDC has been monitoring it. The U.S. usually doesn’t experience outbreaks of this particular virus. Since the symptoms have been so mild, the CDC recommends isolating until you are better, but in some cases, they will administer a monkeypox vaccine.

If you know someone who is currently infected with monkeypox, keep your physical distance from them until they are better. Wash your hands often. If you begin experiencing symptoms with a rash that looks like monkeypox, contact your doctor immediately, even if you don’t know if you’ve been in contact with someone who has monkeypox. Although the U.S. is experiencing an outbreak, the good news is it is mild in most cases and will clear up on its own with time. Stay isolated and use topical ointments to treat your symptoms until you are healed.