Monkeypox: What You Need to Know

The CDC issued a “Level 2” travel health notice due to rising monkeypox cases around the globe.

Since May 7, 2022, 237 confirmed monkeypox infections plus over 120 suspected cases have been identified in the US, Canada, UK, and other parts of Europe, all regions where monkeypox is not typically found. While cases are still low, more cases are anticipated, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the origins of the cases and tracking several people who have had close contact with the patients.

The Origins of Monkeypox

Monkeypox is believed to have originated from rodents in Central and West Africa, with the majority of cases centered in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Up until recently, cases outside of Africa have been rare and are usually traced to recent travelers to the region, or via imported animals. All reported cases in the past few weeks have been classified as the West African clade version of the virus, a strain that is usually a more mild version of the disease. However, according to the CDC, in Africa, monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as one in ten persons who contract it.

Monkeypox Symptoms

The disease presents with flu-like symptoms, including fever and body aches, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes, and then develops into a distinctive, bumpy rash with lesions that progress through several stages before scabbing over and falling off. Monkeypox symptoms typically clear up in two to four weeks on their own but can pose a more serious danger to high risk patients.

Symptoms of monkeypox include flu-like symptoms followed by the development of a distinctive, bumpy rash.

How Monkeypox Spreads

Monkeypox spreads mainly through respiratory droplets in the air, and through close contact with other infected individuals. Like many of the most dangerous and more contagious viruses, monkeypox virus particles are extremely small, in the range of 0.24-0.3 microns on average, but can measure as small as 0.16 microns. COVID-19 virus particles, for comparison, are generally 0.14 microns.

This means that in order for an air monitor to be able to detect viral loads of monkeypox in a room, it must have the capacity to measure particles in the 0.1 to 2.5 range. Correspondingly, an air purifier must be able to filter and eliminate particles in this size range, the equivalent of a MERV 19 grade filter, to protect occupants from monkeypox. The ThinkLite Flair is the only air monitor with this level of precision monitoring, and both the Purilux in-ceiling LED air purifier and ICON portable air purifier are equipped for MERV 19 grade filtering down to the 0.1 micron level.

A microscopic image of monkeypox, an airborne virus measuring an average of 0.2 – 0.3 microns.
Photography credit: Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Russell Regnery/CDC; AP.

Monkeypox Treatment and Vaccines

There are currently two vaccines available in the US that are approved against monkeypox, both of which are also used to prevent smallpox. The US is currently in the process of releasing reserves of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine from the National Stockpile for some of the high-risk contacts of early patients. It is also considering ACAM2000, an older generation smallpox vaccine that is licensed for monkeypox, as a secondary vaccine option if Jynneos in not available due to side effects of the ACAM2000. Moderna has also reported development and testing of a monkeypox vaccine.

According to the CDC, there is currently no approved treatment specifically for monkeypox infection, but antivirals and vaccinia immune globulin (VIG) can be used. In most cases, monkeypox virus will clear up on its own, especially if the cases are of the more mild, West African cade strain, which has a mortality rate around 1%.