Key Characteristics of Monkeypox Rash

Last week, the United States declared monkeypox a national health emergency, stirring additional questions and concerns on the outbreak which has now over 1,000 cases reported in Florida alone, but it also raises many questions from the general population on the disease.

 What is monkeypox?

According to the CDC, the monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox, discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown.

While no U.S. cases have resulted in patient death, some patients suffer excruciating pain from the lesions caused by the virus and require hospitalization. The blisters usually scab or become crusty and then fall off and could potentially leave scars on the skin.

But how can monkeypox be transmitted?

A recent report by the South Florida Sun Sentinel provides some answers.

The simplest answer, according to scientists, is skin-to-skin contact with another person’s rash or lesion. This is most pointedly through touching the rash on the person themselves, but the idea that it spreads exclusively through sexual intercourse is incorrect.

While extremely close contact, like the kind that occurs during sex or cuddling, hugging, or kissing, puts you in a position to contract the virus from someone who has a lesion, scientists have found no compelling evidence that it can spread through semen and vaginal fluids, dispelling the popular misconception that monkeypox can only be spread from men having sex with men.

That being said, monkeypox has been spreading mostly through sexual contact with infections clustered in sexual networks.

Can you get it by shaking hands with someone? Well, yes.

Dr. Aldo Calvo, medical director of the ambulatory division for Broward Health, said technically, you could. “If you shake hands with someone who has an open lesion on their palm or even fist bump someone who has a lesion on their knuckles and you then touch your mouth or nose you can definitely get it, which is why you want to continue handwashing.”

However, there may not be any rash or lesions on the person in question’s hand, in which case it is safe to shake it. Besides, the consensus is that you would need sustained contact with the part of skin on the infected person that has the virus itself.

It’s for this reason that ‘incidental’ contact (a chair or a couch that someone with monkeypox sat on, the handle of a shopping cart, etc.) is uncommon and generally unlikely. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told “You have to be exposed to enough virus to actually get infected with it,” she said.

Fortunately for everyone, especially frequent flyers, monkeypox is not airborne. “Monkeypox is not known to linger in the air and is not transmitted during short periods of shared airspace,” the CDC said in a media statement. “People who have monkeypox have traveled on airplanes, no known cases of monkeypox occurred in people seated around them, even on long international flights.”

Another pressing concern is on behalf of parents, who worry that the new school year will nurse infections among their children. If children under 8 years old get infected with monkeypox, they’re at an increased risk of developing severe illness, the Sun Sentinel article reported.

With children, symptoms start off just like other childhood viruses — fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue and then the rash usually follows up to three days later. If your child does get a rash, a pediatrician can test for monkeypox by swabbing the rash - or pox.

The CDC website says children who are close contacts of an infected person may be offered the Jynneos vaccine, which can be offered to adults as well. 

This only covers prevention, however, as there is no major treatment yet. The Sun Sentinel report mentions that monkeypox typically goes away on its own but doctors are prescribing patients Tecovirimat, also known as Tpoxx, which they feel shortens the infection’s severity and duration (which averages at four weeks).

The average U.S. monkeypox patient is around 35 years old, but people of all ages — and genders — could become infected. A simple swab of a lesion by a health care provider can test for monkeypox.

For more information, please refer to the CDC's monkeypox website or the Sun Sentinel.



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