As if COVID-19 isn’t a big enough worry, a single case of monkeypox virus has been confirmed on November 16th in Maryland. A Maryland resident had travelled to Nigeria recently, where he contracted the virus, but is recovering in quarantine and is not hospitalized. Monkeypox is similar to smallpox, but usually causes a milder infection. It can be spread pretty much the same way COVID can be — through direct contact with bodily fluids, or respiratory droplets that can travel a few feet if face to face. The symptoms are similar to the flu, with fever, headaches, etc., but can progress to rashes and scabs across the face and body. It also causes lymph nodes to swell, while smallpox does not, but monkeypox’s mortality rate is significantly lower. Most monkeypox infections last 2-4 weeks, but are no longer contagious after 21 days since exposure.
Monkeypox infections are not usually seen in the US, and the rare cases have been tracked down to specific, avoidable exposures. The last monkeypox outbreak in the US was in 2003, and had 37 confirmed cases and 10 probable ones, in five states, none of which were fatal. In that outbreak, epidemiologists discovered that the virus entered America through a shipment of African rodents that later spread to people. Monkeypox infections usually occur in central and Western Africa, and travelers returning from these areas are cautioned to monitor their health.