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What is monkeypox? How does it spread?

1/ What is monkeypox? How does it spread?

 Monkeypox is a disease caused by the infection of monkeypox virus which belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. Monkeypox virus can spread from person-to-person through:

  • direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • items that are previously contacted with the infectious rash or body fluids, for example, clothing or linens
  • fetus through the placenta of pregnant women

It can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The incubation period is usually from 6 to 13 days, with a range of 5 to 21 days. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Individuals infected may be contagious from a day before the rash appears and up to 21 days after the initial symptoms, or until all skin lesions have formed scabs.

2/ What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Headach
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

The rash goes through different stages before it is healed completely, and typically lasts for 2-4 weeks.

3/ How can we prevent from monkeypox? Can it be prevented by smallpox vaccination?

To prevent monkeypox, one should avoid close physical contact with sick persons or animals; Wear protective clothing and equipment when taking care of ill people or handling animals, and carry out regular hand washing after these procedures.  Thoroughly cook all animal products before eating; and seek medical advice promptly for any suspicious symptoms.

It has been shown that smallpox vaccine may also be effective in preventing monkeypox, and a new vaccine called "Jynneos" has been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the protection of monkeypox in 2019. 

There is currently no registered specific vaccine or antiviral pharmaceutical product for monkeypox available in Hong Kong. Taking the local context into account, The Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (JSC) considered that mass vaccination is not recommended for monkeypox.  

Subject to availability of a monkeypox vaccine, post-exposure prophylaxis for contacts of cases and pre-exposure prophylaxis for certain high-risk groups could be considered when a monkeypox vaccine is available.

4/ Will that be a concern for the general public in Hong Kong? Or is it generally related to a particular patient group?

Hong Kong has not recorded any confirmed monkeypox human infection cases so far, but confirmed human cases of monkeypox have been reported in some endemic and non-endemic countries and there would be further spread of the virus.

5/ Is treatment available at the moment?

There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.

6/ What has Matilda Hospital done to prepare for it?    

Knowledge sharing materials are made to heighten the alert of our colleagues and information will be shared with patients via different communication means. Should there be any suspicious cases, the hospital will report the case to the Centre for Health Protection for infection control and prevention.

Reference:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 24). Monkeypox. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html

Centre for Health Protection. (2022, June 17). Centre for Health Protection, Department of Health - Monkeypox. Centre for Health Protection. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/features/105683.html

The Government of HKSAR. (2022, June 17). Scientific committees under CHP issue consensus interim recommendations on use of COVID-19 vaccine and monkeypox vaccine in Hong Kong. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202206/17/P2022061700456.htm