What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare smallpox-like disease that occurs primarily in the rain forest countries of central and west Africa. The disease was discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958. Studies of animals in Africa later found evidence of orthopoxvirus infection in a number of African rodents. The virus has been isolated from an African tree squirrel, which may be the natural host. Laboratory studies showed that monkeypox also could infect mice, rats, and rabbits. In 1970, monkeypox was reported in humans for the first time. In June 2003, monkeypox was reported in prairie dogs and humans in the United States.

What is the cause of monkeypox?

Monkeypox is caused by Monkeypox virus, which belongs to the orthopoxvirus group of viruses. Other members of this group of viruses that cause infections in humans include variola (smallpox), vaccinia (used for smallpox vaccine), and cowpox viruses.

What are the clinical features of monkeypox?

In humans, monkeypox is similar to smallpox, except that enlargement of lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) is associated with monkeypox. About 12 days after exposure, the illness begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, a general feeling of discomfort, and exhaustion. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a papular rash (i.e., raised bumps), often first on the face but sometimes initially on other parts of the body. The lesions usually develop through several stages before crusting and falling off.

How long does monkeypox last?

The illness typically lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.

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