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Monkeypox: What Parents Need to Know

Jul 28, 2022
what is monkeypox

While we are still dealing with COVID-19, spread of another virus has been detected in the United States. Although monkeypox (no relation to chickenpox) is uncommon, we need to be informed to protect against infection.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is in the same family of viruses as the one that causes smallpox.

Before the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been mostly restricted to central and western African countries. Sporadic cases were detected in international travelers who visited countries where the disease was common, or via contact with imported animals. With the current outbreak, monkeypox virus has been circulating in countries outside of Africa including the United States.

How Does Monkeypox Spread?

Direct contact with rash, scabs, or body fluid from a person with monkeypox is thought to be the most common way the virus is spreading. Sexual activity, hugging, kissing, and other intimate physical contact may spread the virus.

Less common ways the virus can spread include touching objects that have been used by someone with monkeypox, particularly fabrics such as clothing, bedding, or towels. The virus can also spread via contact with respiratory secretions.

People can only spread the virus to others if they have symptoms. Monkeypox is considered contagious for 2-4 weeks, from the time symptoms begin until a fresh layer of skin has formed over the fully healed rash.

What Are the Symptoms of Monkeypox?

Monkeypox usually starts with a flu-like illness with fever, headache, weakness, and fatigue. Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) are often present. A rash begins shortly afterwards which may look like pimples or blisters that eventually scab and heal. The rash may appear on the face, arms, or legs first before spreading to other parts of the body. Some patients only have rash localized to a single part of the body, including only in the genitals.

People with compromised immune systems, children younger than 8 years of age, those who have a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant are more at risk for serious illness or death.

If you think your child has monkeypox or has been exposed to someone who does, contact your child’s healthcare provider.

How Is Monkeypox Prevented?

Keeping yourself and your family protected from monkeypox will probably feel familiar after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
  • Don’t share eating utensils or cups with people who have monkeypox
  • Don’t touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of people who have monkeypox
  • Wash your hands often, making sure to use soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Vaccines used against smallpox may also help prevent monkeypox. Currently, these vaccines are in very limited supply nationwide. The federal government is distributing to the most affected communities as supply becomes available based on cases and proportion of the population at risk for severe disease. Ohio is currently a low incidence state.

How is Monkeypox Treated?

If you think your child has monkeypox, isolate at home and contact your child’s healthcare provider. Those with active rash or symptoms should stay in a separate room or area away from pets and people if possible. 

Currently, there are no treatments approved specifically for monkeypox. Antivirals developed to treat smallpox may be used in people with severe monkeypox infection.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Learn More About Monkeypox

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Matthew Washam, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases

Matthew C. Washam, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and member of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Washam’s research interests include understanding the risk factors for transmission of multidrug-resistant bacteria in children within the hospital environment.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.