Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research. The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and since then the infection has been reported in a number of central and western African countries. Prior to 2022 most cases were reported from the DRC and Nigeria. In 2003, monkeypox was recorded in the US when an outbreak occurred following the importation of rodents from Africa. Cases were reported in both humans and pet prairie dogs. All the human infections followed contact with an infected pet and all patients recovered. Since May 2022, cases of monkeypox have been reported in multiple countries that do not usually have monkeypox virus in animal or human populations, including the UK.
Monkeypox does not spread easily between people. Spread of monkeypox may occur when a person comes into close contact with an infected animal (rodents are believed to be the primary animal reservoir for transmission to humans), human, or materials contaminated with the virus. Monkeypox has not been detected in animals in the UK. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). Person-to-person spread may occur through: direct contact with monkeypox skin lesions or scabs (including during sexual contact, kissing, cuddling or holding hands) coughing or sneezing of an individual with a monkeypox rash when they’re close to you contact with clothing or linens (such as bedding or towels) used by an infected person .
The incubation period is the duration/time between contact with the infected person and the time that the first symptoms appear. The incubation period for monkeypox is between 5 and 21 days. Monkeypox infection is usually a self-limiting illness and most people recover within several weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals. The illness begins with: fever headache muscle aches backache swollen lymph nodes chills exhaustion joint pain Within 1 to 5 days after the appearance of fever, a rash develops, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. This can include the mouth, genitals and anus. The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab which later falls off. An individual is contagious until all the scabs have fallen off and there is intact skin underneath. The scabs may also contain infectious virus material .