Massachusetts public health officials confirm that one adult resident of the state has been diagnosed with monkeypox, an extremely rare disease that typically affects only a few dozen people worldwide each year. What are the symptoms of monkeypox? How can you treat it? What should you do if you think you might have been exposed to the virus? Here’s what you need to know about this unusual disease and its implications in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country. Massachusetts Confirms Case of Monkeypox – Here’s What You Need to Know

Monkeypox 101

First off, it’s called monkeypox because, obviously, monkeys are one of its main carriers. And it’s a rare viral disease that causes blistering and rashes on those infected; in extreme cases, it can even lead to organ failure. Health officials worry that as climate change brings more contact between humans and animals in rural parts of countries like Congo, where most infections originate, we could see an uptick in cases here in America. Massachusetts Confirms Case of Monkeypox – Here’s What You Need to Know

What Is The Difference Between Smallpox and Monkeypox?

While smallpox has been eradicated in humans and is no longer seen in nature, monkeypox is an infection caused by poxvirus type 2 that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Although monkeypox cases are relatively rare, they occur mainly in Central and West Africa where people are at greater risk for being exposed to infected animals. However, it’s important to note that most people who come into contact with infected animals do not become ill.

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Where Did the Disease Originate?

In humans, monkeypox is believed to be contracted from animals, most often African rodents like rats or squirrels. Those animals are thought to pick up monkeypox when they come into contact with infected African rodents called pouched rats, which carry an entirely different strain of monkeypox than other species do. Massachusetts Confirms Case of Monkeypox – Here’s What You Need to Know

How Can You Get It?

Health officials say that people can get monkeypox from contact with infected animals or other people who have monkeypox. These include: pet prairie dogs and other exotic rodents, monkeys, and rabbits; direct or indirect contact with a person who has monkeypox; or contact with items like clothes, bedding, needles and syringes. People may also become ill after handling non-human primate carcasses found in forests where monkeys live.

Massachusetts Confirms Case of Monkeypox - Here's What You Need to Know
Massachusetts Confirms Case of Monkeypox – Here’s What You Need to Know


The first signs of monkeypox appear between two and 21 days after infection, when patients experience fever, headache, muscle aches, backache and swollen lymph nodes. Then a rash appears, beginning on the face and spreading down to other parts of their body. The illness is generally mild with no long-term complications for most people who recover. However, pregnant women are at an increased risk for more severe symptoms.


Although treatment is not necessary, patients typically receive over-the-counter painkillers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Children with more severe symptoms might also be prescribed antibiotics and steroid medications to reduce inflammation. Most patients get better within a week or two, but some experience fatigue for several weeks after recovery. Symptoms tend to look worse before they get better.

Myths vs. Facts

The viral illness monkeypox was just confirmed in a human for the first time in nearly 40 years. Is it as deadly as smallpox? How common is it? We break down what you need to know about monkeypox.

Q. & A.

Q. Is monkeypox a zoonotic disease? A. Yes, monkeys get it and they pass it on to humans through their saliva and bodily fluids. While there are no known cases of human-to-human transmission, experts say that there is potential for person-to-person transmission via coughing or sneezing. It’s also possible that people could be infected by touching items contaminated with monkeypox virus or coming into contact with someone who has been infected. Q. How long does it take for symptoms to appear after exposure? A.

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How does a person get monkeypox?

People can get monkeypox from direct contact with: monkeys or other animals infected with monkeypox, people who have been in close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, contaminated bedding or clothing, and certain insects that spread virus. While monkeypox is related to smallpox (and is sometimes called smallpox-like illness), it doesn’t seem as contagious as smallpox.

Can monkeypox be cured?

The typical monkeypox infection is self-limiting, meaning it will go away on its own. As with other viral infections, though, antiviral medication may be used in serious cases to help shorten its duration and lessen symptoms; however, there is no cure for monkeypox. In order to treat any potential complications that arise due to monkeypox infection (such as pneumonia), common medical treatments will be used.

Massachusetts Confirms Case of Monkeypox - Here's What You Need to Know

Can monkeypox be fatal?

Monkeypox is not fatal in humans. However, some people have died from monkeypox infection in Nigeria. There have been no reported deaths related to monkeypox in Massachusetts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that most people with monkeypox develop a fever, headache, muscle aches, backache and swollen lymph nodes within five to six days after being exposed to an infected animal or person.

Is monkeypox contagious?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed Tuesday that monkeypox is a virus spread by contact with bodily fluids. It can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, touching or kissing. The incubation period is typically 12 days. If you’re around someone who has contracted monkeypox and aren’t vaccinated against it, it’s best to stay at least six feet away from them.

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Is monkeypox in the United States now?

Possibly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts public health officials are investigating a possible case of monkeypox in a traveler who returned from Nigeria.

Is monkeypox painful?

The first symptoms people often experience with monkeypox are fever, headache, and muscle aches. The rash generally does not develop until 1-3 weeks after exposure. People usually recover in about a week without treatment. As with other pox viruses, monkeypox causes disease only in humans; it does not infect animals.

What animals can carry monkeypox?

A virus that causes monkeypox is found in many different kinds of animals. Monkeys, rodents, and bats are known to carry these viruses. There has been one report of a person getting monkeypox from contact with a pet prairie dog. The people most likely to be exposed would be those who work directly with monkeys, rodents, or bats. Veterinarians who treat sick pets may also have an increased risk for exposure.

How do you avoid getting monkeypox?

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have determined that by avoiding contact with wild animals, you can decrease your risk for monkeypox. Wild animals such as squirrels and prairie dogs can carry and transmit monkeypox, so it’s important to steer clear of these animals if you plan on traveling outside of Massachusetts. When traveling, be sure to protect yourself by using a bug spray containing DEET or wearing long sleeves and pants.

Where is monkeypox most common?

While we don’t know for sure, it’s possible that monkeys could also carry monkeypox in Africa and Asia. The disease has also been seen in other animals, including some rodents, rabbits and bats. In humans, there are no known cases of monkeypox being spread from person-to-person. This means you cannot get monkeypox from direct contact with another person who has contracted it.

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