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The latest health news is buzzing about monkeypox, especially as case numbers grow in the United States.

After the COVID-19 epidemic, many people are understandably wary of “new” viruses – and if you’ve never heard of monkeypox until now, you’re certainly not alone.

What is monkeypox? What does monkeypox look like? Where is monkeypox in the United States? And most importantly, how can you protect yourself from getting it? FastMed is here to share everything we know so far.

What is monkeypox?

Despite what the name sounds like, monkeypox has no relation to chickenpox. The Monkeypox virus comes from the same family as smallpox, although it typically has less severe symptoms. Monkeypox is new to many of us, but scientists have known about it since 1958, when it was discovered in lab monkeys used for research.

Monkeypox is found in monkeys, other primates and certain rodents and is most common in Central and West Africa. Monkeypox is classified as a zoonotic virus, which means it spreads from animals to humans – but people can transmit it to each other, too.

In May 2022, health officials began seeing monkeypox outbreaks in several places outside of Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has now confirmed thousands of cases in the U.S.

The CDC is now urging healthcare providers like FastMed to be on alert for rashes that are consistent with monkeypox.

What does monkeypox look like?

Prodromal period (typically 5 days) of symptoms include: fever, chills, headache, lymphadenopathy (lymph node swelling), back pain, myalgia (muscle pain), fatigue.

Complications can include: secondary infections such as pneumonia, sepsis (widespread blood infection), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), cornea infections leading to vision loss.

The monkeypox rash

If you have monkeypox, a rash will begin to develop a few days after your fever starts – although some patients get the rash with no prior symptoms at all. The rash typically starts on your face before spreading to your hands, feet, arms, legs or other parts of your body.

With monkeypox, the rash also tends to follow a certain pattern. Flat, round lesions grow into slightly raised bumps that fill with clear fluid, then change into larger lesions filled with yellowish fluid that crust over, scab and fall off. The process usually takes 2-4 weeks but can take more.

How monkeypox spreads

Monkeypox can be spread from the time an infected person’s symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

Monkeypox spreads in many different ways. For example, it can spread from person-to-person through:

  • Direct contact with an infected person’s rash, scabs or body fluids
  • Touching items (such as clothing) that previously touched the infected person’s rash, scabs or body fluids
  • Respiratory secretions during face-to-face or intimate contact with an infected person, such as cuddling, kissing or sex
  • Pregnancy (mothers can infect their fetus through the placenta)

You can also get monkeypox from being bitten or scratched by an infected animal, or by eating meat or other products from an infected animal.

Treating monkeypox

If you suspect you have monkeypox, a laboratory test can confirm it.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for monkeypox. Your doctor will likely suggest rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter medications to keep you comfortable and ward off any complications.

Because the monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, antiviral drugs and vaccines that protect against smallpox may also be used – especially for higher-risk patients with weak immune systems or other health conditions.

The typical incubation period is 5-13 days but can vary from 4-21 days.

If you suspect monkeypox, we recommend consulting with your county health department or visit your nearest emergency room.

FastMed is here to help with rashes, allergies and all other urgent care needs. We are open seven days a week, with no appointment necessary. Come visit us today!

About FastMed

FastMed is one of the nation’s largest urgent care providers, with nearly 200 centers in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Texas. FastMed provides a broad range of acute/episodic, preventive, and occupational healthcare – in its centers and via telemedicine – as well as family medicine at selected locations. FastMed is one of the few urgent care providers in the nation that has earned The Joint Commission’s coveted Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information, visit www.fastmed.com.

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