Monkeypox (monkeypoxvirus, genus orthopoxvirus) is caused by a virus. It was first discovered in 1958 and is a variant of the virus that causes smallpox, which was successfully eradicated in 1980 by vaccination.
Monkeypox was first discovered in laboratory monkeys, which explains the name. However, it is not certain whether monkeys are the main reservoir (carrier) of the virus. The latest research suggests that African rodents are more likely to be the reservoirs.
The following symptoms appear about 5 to 21 days after infection:
- General malaise
- Muscle pain
This is followed by skin lesions: (red) spots, pimples, blisters or festering lumps, which then crust before healing. These skin lesions can be spread all over the body.
There are no approved treatments for the moment, but the disease usually heals spontaneously after a few weeks with no residual lesions.
You can get monkeypox by:
- Contact with body fluids, such as wound fluids
- Contact with mucous membranes and saliva droplets
- Contaminated surfaces or linen (such as bed sheets or towels)
There is no increased risk for the general traveller.
If you have been in contact with an infected person or develop symptoms of monkeypox, read our frequently asked questions about monkeypox.
Most cases of monkeypox have been identified in forested areas in Central and West Africa, namely in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. However, since May 2022, there have also been several cases in European and American countries.
Avoid contact with potentially infected animals.
Avoid contact with infected materials (e.g., bed sheets or towels).
Avoid contact with infected persons.
Vaccination against smallpox offers 85% protection when administered before exposure to monkeypox. Routine vaccination was discontinued in the 1970s and protection by the vaccine decreases with age. Therefore, preventive measures remain important for previously vaccinated persons.