What is monkeypox and what are the symptoms?

On Wednesday, Massachusetts health officials confirmed a case of monkeypox, the first time this year that the virus has been detected in the U.S.

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In a news release, the Massachusetts Department of Health said that a man who had recently traveled to Canada contracted the virus.

Last year, there were two instances of monkeypox detected in the U.S.

In July 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitored more than 200 people in 27 states for possible exposure to monkeypox, a disease that kills about 10% of those who contract it.

Those being monitored came into contact with an individual who contracted monkeypox in Nigeria before traveling to the United States earlier this month.

The U.S. resident infected with monkeypox traveled overnight from Lagos, Nigeria, to Atlanta, arriving on July 9. Then the person traveled to Dallas later that day.

On July 15, the individual went to a Dallas hospital emergency room, where the diagnosis of monkeypox was made.

A second case in the U.S. was identified on Nov. 16, 2021, in Maryland, according to a news release from the Maryland Department of Health. It also involved a person traveling from Nigeria to the U.S., the CDC said.

What is monkeypox, how contagious is it and should you be concerned? Here’s what we know about the virus.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease related to smallpox. It was discovered in 1958 when an outbreak happened in a colony of monkeys kept for research. It was first seen in humans in 1970. Since then, it has only been documented six times outside of Africa.

The disease spreads through inhalation of respiratory droplets from an infected person or some contact with the lesions the virus causes. You can also get the virus by contact with bodily fluids or by having contact with such things as an infected person’s bed linens.

What are the symptoms?

According to the CDC, monkeypox begins with:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Within one to three days after having a fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body.

Can it be treated?

According to the CDC, “Currently, there is no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox virus infection. For controlling a potential outbreak, the smallpox vaccine is given.”

What is the incubation period?

The incubation period for monkeypox — or the time in between coming into contact with someone who has the virus and when symptoms appear — is between three and 17 days, according to the CDC.

The CDC has asked for a 21-day monitoring period for those who came into close contact with the person who was diagnosed with monkeypox.

The illness typically lasts for 2-4 weeks.