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What is Monkeypox, and How Does It Spread?

Monkeypox is a viral disease caused by the Monkeypox virus. Both Monkeypox and Smallpox belong to the same family, Orthopoxvirus and have similar symptoms, but Monkeypox is less severe than Smallpox. The disease was discovered in monkeys who were kept for research and, therefore, the name of the disease. The first human case was discovered in 1970. 

There are two types of monkey virus- Central Africa and West Africa strain. The recent 2022 outbreak happened due to the West African type, which is less severe than the other one. 

Causes of Monkeypox?

Monkeypox can spread through the following transmission mode.

  • Contact with an infected animal- Disease may spread due to a bite/scratch by an infected animal. 

  • Contact with an infected person- Person-to-person contamination is less common. However, it can spread through an infected person's respiratory droplet, sores, scabs, and oral fluids. It can also spread through close contact such as kissing, cuddling or sex with the infected person. 

  • Clothing and linen- The infection can also spread by sharing clothing and linen.

  • Infected meat- Consumption of infected meat or meat products can lead to monkeypox.

  • Pregnant mother to the foetus- Infection can also transfer from infected mother to foetus through the placenta.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Monkeypox?

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Fatigue

  • Swollen lymph nodes

How is Monkeypox Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made based on the clinical history and PCR tests. The sample is taken from skin lesions for the PCR test. 

Where else is monkeypox found?

Generally, Monkeypox is found in Africa. However, cases have been reported in the UK, US, Australia and European countries. 

What are the current prevention and treatment options against monkeypox?

  • Avoid face-to-face contact with monkeypox patients.

  • Avoid touching sores, scabs and rash of patients suffering from monkeypox.

  • Avoid kissing, cuddling and having sex with monkeypox patients.

  • Avoid sharing utensils, linen, and clothing with symptoms of monkeypox.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or rub your hands with an alcohol-based sanitiser.

Who does monkeypox affect?

Monkeypox can affect any person who comes in contact with an infected patient or animal. The disease can affect the foetus of an infected mother through the placenta. 

Can vaccines work against it?

According to studies, the vaccine against smallpox is known to be effective against monkeypox. 

How long does monkeypox last?

Monkeypox is generally a self-limiting disease, and symptoms last 2-4 weeks. The infection can spread till the time lesions get healed.

Is monkeypox fatal?

The symptom of monkeypox is less severe than smallpox, which is rarely fatal. But complications can lead to death in 1-10% of cases.

How do I take care of myself?

You should take the following measures to prevent monkeypox infection.

  • Avoid contact with persons and animals suffering from monkeypox.

  • Avoid sharing linen, bedding and clothing with an infected person.

  • Eat thoroughly cooked meat and meat products.

  • Use condoms for safe sex

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Practice social distancing and wear triple-layered masks.

  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while taking care of an infected person.

  • Disinfect the surfaces with disinfectant.

When should I go to the Doctor?

You should consult your doctor if you have the following symptoms-

  • Feeling sick, suffering from pain

  • Rashes or sores on the body

  • If you are in close contact with an infected person. 

Monkeypox Vs Small Pox

Both Monkeypox and Smallpox are caused by the virus of the same family, Orthopoxvirus. Following are the key differences between Monkeypox and smallpox





Monkeypox virus

Variola virus


Fever occurs 1-5 days before the appearance of rash

Fever occurs 2-4 days before the appearance of rash.


Appears on the face, followed by other body parts

Red spots appear in the mouth and then followed by arms, legs, and palm. 

Lymph nodes enlargement



Incubation period

5-21 days

7-19 days

Recovery period

2-4 weeks

Up to 5 weeks


1-10% cases

Upto 30%


Monkeypox Vs Chicken pox

Monkeypox is different from chicken pox. Here is the list of differences between the two diseases. 




Causative agent

Monkeypox virus

Varicella-Zoster virus (VZV)


Less contagious

Highly contagious


Fever occurs 1-5 days before the appearance of rash

Fever occurs 1-2 days before the appearance of rash.

Lymph node enlargement




Rash appears on the face, followed by other body parts.

Rash appears first on the chest and back, followed by the face and other body parts. 

Incubation period

5-21 days

4-7 days

Mode of transmission

Broken skin and respiratory tract

Respiratory tract


Monkeypox in India

In the South-East Asia region, the first case of Monkeypox was reported in India. Cases have been reported even in patients with no history of travel suggestive of local transmission. Though the fatality rate of Monkeypox is low, taking precautionary measures can prevent the spread of infection.