Monkeypox Outbreak - How is It Spread?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 12 December 2023
Monkeypox Outbreak - How is It Spread?

Monkeypox is a disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genes in the family Poxviridae. It is a self-limited disease that lasts around 2 to 4 weeks. At present, the fatality case ratio has been around 3 to 6% only. It is transmitted from animals to humans that come in close contact. The pox can also spread among humans from contaminated material. It is a zoonotic viral disease that originated in the rainforests of central and west Africa. However, the virus has branched out to other parts of the world since its inception.

Monkeypox spreads through close contact with body fluids, respiratory droplets, and lesions. It is less contagious when compared to smallpox (which was eradicated in 1980) but can still cause severe health issues. The animal range that causes the spread of the virus includes non-human primates and rodents.

Monkeypox Outbreak at a Glance

Since May 2022, 12 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) have reported monkeypox virus cases. Most of the cases identified have been found in men who have sexual relationships with other men. WHO suspects that there might be more cases in non-endemic countries (the regions where the virus did not originate). No associated deaths have been reported in these countries till now. However, there has been a low fatality ratio of 3-6% in endemic countries (the region where the virus originated).

How is Monkeypox Spread?

There has been no evidence that the outbreak of the virus was caused by people travelling from the affected regions to other countries.

Although the researchers claim that there is still a lot to be learned about the virus and its effects on the human body, here are some symptoms that have been found in the recent cases of Monkeypox.

Now let us understand how the virus spreads from animals to humans and person to person.

Animals → Humans

If someone comes in direct contact with an infected person, they can get the virus. The animal hosts that are more at risk of spreading the virus include primates and rodents. Avoid unprotected contact with wounded, bleeding, or sick animals to escape contraction of the virus. The spread can also come from eating the meat of the infected animal if it is not cooked well.

Person → Person

If someone comes in contact with an infected person, they are also prone to contracting the virus. Infection can also spread from:

  1. The rash or the fluid from the rash
  2. Contaminated material 
  3. Scabs and blood from lesions 
  4. Use of the same bedding, towels, utensils, and objects

The virus can also spread through saliva, putting front line workers, family members, and sexual partners more at risk. A pregnant lady infected with the virus can also pass it on to the fetus from the placenta, skin to skin contact, etc.

Symptoms of Monkeypox

  1. High fever
  2. Intense headache
  3. Muscle aches
  4. Back pain
  5. Low energy
  6. Swollen lymph nodes
  7. Skin rash or lesions

The rash usually begins to appear after a person has had a fever for a couple of days. They can be flat or filled with fluid or pus. If they are flat, they may dry up and fall off eventually. However, the ones filled with fluid may take more time to heal. The places where rashes appear on the body include the palms, face, genitals, eyes, mouth, and sides of the feet.

Most of the time, the symptoms might leave without any treatment in a few weeks. However, if you have any other medical conditions or health-related complications, you may require additional treatment. Especially people with low immunity, such as older age groups, newborns, pregnant women, etc., may be at more risk of getting severe complications. This group of people can experience the following complications with the monkeypox virus:

Complications Associated with Monkeypox

  1. Skin infections
  2. Eye infections that can also lead to loss of vision
  3. Pneumonia
  4. Confusion, and
  5. Death (low possibility as mentioned above)

How to Keep Yourself Safe from Monkeypox?

A person can only protect himself/ herself from the virus if they do not come in contact with the infected person or animal. 

If you are around an infected person because you are a healthcare worker or a family member, then make sure you follow these prevention tips:

  1. Wear a mask around the infected person.
  2. Do not touch the infected person with bare hands. Always wear disposable gloves to avoid skin to skin contact with them.
  3. Ensure that their rashes and lesions are covered.
  4. It is better if the infected person also wears a mask.
  5. Wash your hands soon after coming in contact with the infected person, even if you wear gloves.
  6. Disinfect all the things that the infected person comes in contact with.

Treatment for Monkeypox

The symptoms of monkeypox last only for a few weeks and may naturally go away even without any treatment. However, here are some things that you can do to ensure that the virus does not spread and the symptoms become bearable for you:

  1. Get regular cleaning and dressing of the rash done.
  2. Do not touch any open sores or lesions with your hands, as they can contaminate everything you touch after that.
  3. You can also use eye drops to get relief from eye infections, rashes, and itching in and around the eyes.
  4. Mouth rinses also make the sores and rashes better.
  5. The doctors may suggest Vaccinia Immune Globulin (VIG) for severe cases.


Even though the symptoms of monkeypox are not unbearable, it still puts people with low immunity at risk. Being a viral disease, its outbreak must be kept in control. Researchers are putting their best to find out more about the disease and till then, all we can do is contain the infection by following preventative measures.


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Updated on : 12 December 2023


Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More


About Authors

HexaHealth Care Team

HexaHealth Care Team brings you medical content covering many important conditions, procedures falling under different medical specialities. The content published is thoroughly reviewed by our panel of qualified doctors for its accuracy and relevance.

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