What is monkeypox? How is it transmitted? How can you protect yourself?
Cases of monkeypox have been occurring in Germany and many other countries since May 2022.
Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox disease is mild in most people and usually heals on its own. However, severe cases can also occur (especially in children or persons with a weakened immune system).
The infection typically becomes symptomatic within five to 21 days. Though rare, symptoms can occur as early as two to four days after contact with a person with monkeypox.
The following mostly very painful skin lesions occur: Pimples, blisters, rash, “sores” mainly in the genital or anal area, but also in other places such as the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
The disease is often preceded or accompanied by general symptoms of illness, such as fever, headache, muscle and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, or fatigue.
Transmission occurs through close skin-to-skin contact especially with the monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
However, infection can also occur when touching fabrics (like clothing, bedding, or towels) and surfaces that have been used or touched by a person with monkeypox. Droplet infection is also possible when conversing with ill persons who are in the immediate vicinity.
Prevention of monkeypox
To significantly reduce the risk of infection, skin contact should be minimized and—this is especially important—no rashes or wounds should be touched. Touching textiles of potentially infectious persons should also be avoided. When using public washrooms, especially toilets, practice thorough hand disinfection. Toilet seats also should be disinfected before use. To make this possible, toilets in communal facilities and in public areas should be equipped with dispensers for toilet sanitization. Droplet infection is most easily avoided by keeping a distance; if this is not safely feasible when conversing with someone with monkeypox, an N95 mask should be worn.
Another preventive measure available is a smallpox vaccine licensed in the EU, which can also be used to protect against monkeypox.
Text by: Dr. med. Andreas Glöckner