When a disease is all over the news, parents worry. It’s natural to have questions and concerns about monkeypox as we hear more about it spreading. At Children’s Wisconsin, managing and treating infectious diseases is part of what we do every day. We are here to help and can answer some of those questions.
Here are the basics on what monkeypox is and what to look for.
No, monkeypox doesn’t come from being around monkeys. Monkeypox is a disease that is caused by a viral infection. So someone will get the virus from another person or animal, and then get monkeypox. While the original cause of monkeypox is unknown, it’s believed that rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) can have the virus and infect humans. It’s called monkeypox because it was first discovered in monkeys in the 1950s.
Monkeypox is rarely deadly. More than 99 percent of people who get monkeypox survive and it’s typically a mild illness. However, like many other diseases, those who are immunocompromised are more likely to have a severe reaction to the disease. This is something we work through every day at Children’s Wisconsin as we frequently see children with serious health conditions. We have specific procedures and facilities to help those children.
It’s important to note that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have not been any reported cases of monkeypox in children as of now.
People with monkeypox are typically sick for two to four weeks. Many people get a rash first, followed by fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. The rash can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth and possibly on hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.
Along with the rash, lesions can form and they go through stages. They start as flat, discolored areas, then turn to bumps. Those bumps then become fluid-filled, and eventually fill with pus. Lastly, the lesions will scab over and heal.
Monkeypox primarily spreads through contact with the rash or body fluids of someone who is infected. People who do not have symptoms of monkeypox cannot spread it to others.
According to the CDC, the risk to the public is still very low. As long as those who have symptoms isolate and follow doctor’s recommendations, that risk can stay low.
Because the monkeypox virus is similar to the smallpox virus, the smallpox vaccine is effective against monkeypox infection.
If you’re still concerned, you can rely on some of the precautions we’ve used for the last couple years — try to stay at least six feet away from those you don’t know and it’s always a good idea to wash hands thoroughly and often!
The Children’s Wisconsin Infection Prevention team is actively monitoring and preparing for monkeypox. We are relying on things we always do at Children’s Wisconsin to help. We have certain protocols and facilities that allow us to separate highly infectious patients and our experienced Infection Prevention, Emergency Medicine and leader teams have a plan specific to monkeypox.
We are learning more every day about monkeypox and our expertise in infectious disease is helping us prepare. We know the signs and symptoms and are doing everything possible to alleviate fear and increase our readiness. And as always, we will remain focused on providing the best and safest care and protecting our children and families, staff, visitors and community.
You should call your family doctor or pediatrician if your child has the above symptoms, specifically noting the rash. Please consider an urgent care video visit or be sure to call your doctor before going to a doctor’s office, urgent care location or hospital.
You can find more information about monkeypox on the CDC website. As always, we will also be sharing more information on our NewsHub and social media channels as needed.