Monkeypox Questions, Answered By An Expert

Jorge Osorio — monkeypox expert and Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition partner — breaks down the virus.

Diagnostics Testing|Jun.20, 2022

Every new virus outbreak comes with new questions.

As the monkeypox virus (MPV) has spread to nearly 30 countries around the globe beyond the western and central African countries it typically has been found, people are wondering: How does it spread? What exactly is it? What are the symptoms? Do we have a vaccine?

Jorge Osorio — resident monkeypox expert from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Pandemic Defense Coalition partner — has answers surrounding the virus.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus (MPV), a zoonotic virus, meaning it can spread from animals to humans, “and, subsequently, human to human,” Osorio said.

How do you get monkeypox?

Monkeypox can be spread in a variety of ways. From animals, it can spread through close physical contact or consumption of uncooked meat of an infected animal.

An infected person, however, can spread monkeypox through saliva, respiratory secretions, rashes, bodily fluids, shared fabrics such as clothing or bedding as well as other contaminated objects such as unwashed utensils or devices, and even during or after birth.

Is monkeypox contagious?

Yes. People with monkeypox are contagious while symptomatic, typically for 2-4 weeks. Osorio said that “we’re not yet sure” whether people without symptoms are contagious, but global health experts are figuring that out.

With COVID-19 lingering in our collective concern, Osorio makes one important distinction: “We’re not looking at another COVID-19 here,” he said. “COVID is spread through microscopic droplets and particles, whereas monkeypox is commonly spread through direct physical contact, so it’s less transmissible.”

Symptoms of monkeypox?

Often include fever, headache, muscle ache, back pain, low energy and skin rashes or lesions, typically concentrated on the face, palms or soles of feet. “However,” Osorio said, “some people may not experience symptoms.”

Is there a vaccine?

Yes. There is an FDA-approved vaccine, and it’s available for people over 18.  It is available for certain people who have had high risk exposures to monkeypox. There’s also an antiviral drug available to treat monkeypox for those who experience severe disease or may be at high risk of severe disease, such as immunocompromised people.

Will monkeypox become a pandemic?

As Osorio said, monkeypox is very different from COVID-19. The virus is less transmissible.

What’s next?

Global experts — including our Pandemic Defense Coalition — already have eyes on the ground at partner sites to help monitor further development of the virus.

“We’re actively watching and analyzing this virus to ensure we can identify, track and test it,” Osorio said. The Coalition is also developing a diagnostic test for monkeypox that will be shared within the Coalition for research, and we’ll take steps to address additional testing needs as the situation evolves.

With every new or evolving outbreak, we’re committed to finding and providing answers.