NEED TO KNOW:

  • There are currently no confirmed cases of monkeypox in Michigan. 
  • The disease is contracted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. 
  • If you get monkeybox, your illness is not likely to become severe. 

MICHIGAN — Monkeypox doesn’t look pretty, but the virus isn’t severe – that’s the first thing to know. And though there’ve been 72 confirmed cases in the US as of publication–including one in Ohio and eight in Illinois–there have been no confirmed cases of the disease in Michigan. Finally, you should expect it to show up here sooner rather than later. Experts think it spread undetected through the US for a while, so if you’ve got a fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash, it’s worth a call to your doctor. Michigan Medical Director Natasha Bagdasarian also told City Pulse this week that monkeypox is “likely spreading in the state, but we are not really testing for it or necessarily aware of it.”

Symptoms

When people have symptoms, they’re similar to those of smallpox–but much milder, and they rarely lead to serious illness or death. That’s because both poxes belong to the Orthopoxvirus genus. Like smallpox, monkeypox starts with a fever, headache, body aches, and exhaustion. Unlike smallpox, monkeypox causes swollen lymph nodes (small oval lumps of tissue found in front of your ears, in your neck, at the base of your head, in your armpits, groin, and behind your knees). 

After a day or so, a rash sometimes begins–usually first on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body. One thing to know: Sometimes the rashes can be a little alarming to look at (Google at your own risk). Here’s a photo from the CDC:

Eventually, the bumps scab over and fall off. All told, the mild illness lasts for 2-4 weeks. If you’re immune compromised, your doctor might prescribe antivirals that have shown to be beneficial for some patients. 

How it Spreads

For people who’ve spent the past two years in an easily transmissible pandemic, it might be hard to imagine a low-transmission virus, but experts say not to worry too much about this one.

“This is not something where I would want to panic the general public, put everyone on high alert or have everyone thinking about monkeypox,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive, told MLive.

Still, it’s good to know what you’re up against, and how you can prevent it. Monkeypox spreads mainly through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. If you’re caring for someone with a rash that looks like monkeypox, take extra precautions. Also note that kissing, face-to-face contact, and maybe semen are pathways for the disease.

“Many cases in the current monkeypox outbreak, largely centered on Europe, are among sexual partners who have had close contact, and the [World Health Organization] reiterated that virus is mainly transmitted via close interpersonal contact,” Reuters reported. Men who have sex with men are at higher risk, due to their most common contact points. 

Smallpox vaccines are about 85% effective against monkeypox, and the WHO is creating a new vaccine-sharing program for more than 30 countries outside the continent of Africa. However, most people shouldn’t need a vaccine, and reporting done by the Atlantic suggests that a widespread vaccine effort, like the one for COVID-19, isn’t in the near future. 

Why is it called monkeypox?

Monkeypox got its name (which may be changing) in 1958, when two outbreaks of the disease were discovered in colonies of research monkeys. The disease was confirmed in humans in 1970, and since then has cropped up in the US, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Israel, Africa, and other locations.

How to prevent it, according to the CDC

  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus — including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox has been reported.
  • Avoid direct contact with any materials, such as bedding, that have been in contact with a person with a rash, or with a sick animal.
  • Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
  • Practice good hand hygiene,washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use personal protective equipment when caring for people and animals who are sick.