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2022 Monkeypox Outbreak

What you need to know about monkeypox symptoms, prevention, and vaccines.
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Takeaway: According to the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics this year’s monkeypox outbreak continues to evolve rapidly, but largely appears to have different epidemiological patterns from past outbreaks. What do you need to know to stay healthy? We have the answers.  

As of mid-September 2022, the total number of monkeypox infections approached a record 61,282 cases worldwide—in 104 locations and nearly all US states, most of which have historically not reported monkeypox infectious during past outbreaks. As a result, the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).  

As reports from around the world continue to flood media outlets and inboxes, we have gathered a roundup of the critical information you need to stay informed and protect yourself and your loved ones.  

What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is a rare, viral zoonotic disease caused by an infection with the monkeypox virus. The monkeypox virus is a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridea family, the same family of viruses that causes smallpox. Frist discovered in 1958 in Copenhagen Demark, when two pox-like outbreaks caused concern among monkey colonies used for research. While the name implies a correlation to monkeys, the original source of the virus remains unknown. The first human case of monkeypox was not recorded for over a decade later, in early 1970. During past outbreaks, the infections remained localized, typically within Africa. Any cases that extended beyond African boarders were directly tied to international travel from the infected regions.   

Monkeypox signs and symptoms 

There are a handful of common symptoms, but it is important to note not all symptoms have been present in every infected individual and symptoms may arise in various orders (i.e., some experience a rash first and no other symptoms, while others encounter all symptoms simultaneously):

  • Fever and/or chills 

  • Head, muscle, and backaches 

  • Swollen lymph nodes (commonly in the neck, armpits, or groin)  

  • Overall feelings of exhaustion 

  • A rash, often resembling pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside of the mouth, and common on other parts of the body, including hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus 

While the rash has been noted to go through various stages throughout the illness, on average the infection lasts two to four weeks before healing completely.  

How does monkeypox spread and should I be worried? 

Unlike SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), monkeypox is not a respiratory illness that easily spreads throughout the air. Monkeypox spreads in a few specific, ways:

  • Direct, prolonged contact with the rash, scabs, and/or bodily fluids 

  • Close exposure to respiratory secretions during extended face-to-face, intimate physical contact; Note: At this time, it is not known if the virus can spread through semen or vaginal fluids 

  • Touching items that were in previous contact with the rash and/or body fluids, including clothing  

  • Transfer of infection from mother to fetus via the placenta   

  • Being scratched or bitten by an infected animal  

  • Eating a meal prepared from or using products from an infected animal  

The contagion period for monkeypox is between the time infection starts until the rash has fully healed and cleared to allow a fresh layer of skin to form. People who do not present symptoms cannot spread the virus.  

Can monkeypox be prevented? 

Yes! To prevent contraction of monkeypox, the CDC recommends the following guidelines:

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with individuals presenting a monkeypox-induced rash—do not touch the rash, do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone who has monkeypox 

  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, utensils, cups, or clothing of a person with monkeypox 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer 

  • If living in or visiting Central or West African, avoid contact with animals, especially rodents and primates, and avoid sick or dead animals, including their bedding  

If you do contract monkeypox, it is important to isolate yourself at home. If you develop or have a rash, stay away from other individuals and animals in your home. Currently, there is no specific monkeypox treatment. Though, antiviral drugs may be recommended.  

Are there vaccines for monkeypox? 

Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved two vaccines for the prevention of monkeypox: 1. JYNNEOS and 2. ACAM2000. However, it is important to note that the limited supply available lacks efficacy data, should not be used by people with known immune system issues, skin conditions, or pregnancy.  

Why is this instance of monkeypox so different? 

While it is true the global spread of 2022 is uncharacteristic—more present in the genital regions than the oral areas noted historically—it does appear that the most recent outbreak is similar to the two genetic clades of the virus: central African (Congo Basin) and west African. However, why the 2022 virus appears to be more predominant in the male population remains unclear. Multiple research studies are underway to expand what we know about the 2002 outbreak.  

Overall, the risk of contracting monkeypox remains relatively low. Experts recommend the above steps and avoidance of individuals with known exposure to be your best bets on avoiding contraction of the virus. The CDC also notes minimal impact to human life, as more than 99% of individuals who contract the virus are expected to recover. 

How is IDT helping with global surveillance efforts? 

When confirming a monkeypox diagnosis samples are extracted from infected fluids—rather than blood as these samples do not retain enough virus load for adequate testing—polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the preferred laboratory test, based on this method’s track record for accuracy and sensitivity. Next generation sequencing (NGS) is also emerging as a powerful tool that provides comprehensive genome coverage for monitoring epidemiological patters. 

Just as researchers and health departments counted on IDT to arm with them with the tools to track and trace SARS-CoV-2, IDT is aiding in global surveillance efforts with our qPCR solutions and NGS solutions for monkeypox. If you would like more information on how we can help you pinpoint the answers you seek, reach out to a member of our team today.

*RUO—For research use only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures. Unless otherwise agreed to in writing, IDT does not intend for these products to be used in clinical applications and does not warrant their fitness or suitability for any clinical diagnostic use. Purchaser is solely responsible for all decisions regarding the use of these products and any associated regulatory or legal obligations. 

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