Monkeypox: What You Need To Know

People still have questions about this virus, so here is what you should know.


After decades without any major issues, the monkeypox virus has had a recent surge in cases. Globally, there have been over 50,000 cases reported in the past few months. As of September 5th, the U.S. alone has had just under 20,000 cases reported. Florida has had about 2,000 recorded cases that we are aware of. This high volume of cases has prompted major news coverage around the world. Concerned citizens are asking one main question: how seriously should we take this outbreak?

Well, the answer depends on your perspective. So far, there have been zero deaths in the U.S. and only 15 deaths globally. The monkeypox virus is nowhere near as virulent as more recent pandemics, so those who are infected rarely face severe health issues. Those who do become ill often have a full recovery with little to no professional treatment. While the virus is not deadly or widespread, it is still an important medical issue.

Those who contract monkeypox will face a distinct, typically acne-like rash that envelops their entire body. The lesions will be itchy and contagious, but overall, they will be benign. Some patients will experience fever, chills, swelling, and even respiratory symptoms. The symptoms will appear within three weeks of exposure to the virus, with the rash occurring a few days after the onset of other symptoms. This means that the virus can lay dormant in your body for a long period of time, increasing the risk of spread. Once the rash develops, it can last up to four weeks and be treated with general rash care, like antiviral drugs and oatmeal baths. Patients are contagious up until their rash goes away and the scabs fully heal over.

Monkeypox spreads through contact with diseased skin or fluids. The virus can stay viral on surfaces for extended periods of time, so it is important to continue to wipe down surfaces in public places. Still, most of the virus spreads through direct contact with an infected person. It can be spread through skin to skin contact, so it is important to minimize exposure to strangers and symptom-displaying friends. Monkeypox can also be spread through contact with respiratory secretions, like coughs and sneezes, so general wellness policies should remain effective. We need to continue to wash hands, sneeze into our elbows or disposable tissues, and avoid as much close contact as possible.

Monkeypox, despite its similar name, has very little relation to chickenpox. It is genetically related to smallpox, which means that some smallpox treatments have been found to be effective in fighting the virus. It has been around since the 1950s, but it has never had such a high volume of cases before. Its sudden uptick in cases could be due to an increase in global travel, weakened immune systems after the COVID-19 pandemic, or something we have not yet discovered.

Without a clear view of how the virus started, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why monkeypox is making waves right now. The virus is having such a strong spike in cases because symptoms lay dormant for an extended period of time, meaning it can be spread without the knowledge of the patient for almost a month. Still, with a population of just over 20 million Floridians, there are relatively few cases right now.

However, the virus’s spread has led to a state of emergency in New York, California, and Illinois, which each have about 1,000 to 4,000 cases. Notably, Florida has not declared a state of emergency. Governor Ron DeSantis felt that the amount of cases and deaths from the virus, in contrast with the large population of Florida, did not warrant any declaration of emergency. With the creation of two new vaccines, and the use of older smallpox vaccines, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hopes that the virus will shortly begin ramping down.

For updated information, testing opportunities, and more, go to the official CDC website. This story was last updated on September 5th, so some of the information may not be current.