Monkey pox: what you need to know about the virus

Vaccination against monkeypox is accelerating due to the epidemic. ©stefamerpik

Should we be afraid of monkeypox? The epidemic is on everyone’s lips, in a context of health crisis likely to exacerbate fears. Wrong? While the first case was detected in May in the UK, there are now more than 50,000 cases worldwide. The WHO triggered its highest level of alert at the end of July. ” Monkeypox risk is moderate overall in all regions except Europe, where we estimate the risk to be high said the director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

As of August 30, 22,000 cases were recorded in Europe, including 3 deaths. No deaths have been recorded in France. If we are far from the contamination figures of the Covid-19 epidemic, the health authorities consider it important to make the population aware of the importance of vaccination. The explanations of Dr. Amandine Gagneux-Brunoninfectious disease specialist at Saint-Étienne University Hospital.

Monkey pox: where does the disease come from?

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that originated in Africa. It is caused by an Orthopox-like virus (a genus of viruses in the Poxviridae family) and is transmitted from animals to humans (especially rodents, primates and canids).

Transmission from animals to humans occurs through direct contact with blood, body fluids or skin lesions of infected animals. Bites, scratches, skinning, trapping, handling of the animal, as well as consumption of animals carrying the disease can therefore be at the origin of its spread.

Its name comes from the fact that it was discovered in 1958 in laboratory monkeys by Danish researchers. It was later, in 1970, that the first case was detected in a 9-month-old Congolese child. Epidemics have regularly been reported in Africa.

The current epidemic is distinguished by the geographical areas affected and the importance of human-to-human transmission.

What are the warning signs?

Although the skin lesions caused by monkeypox are very similar to those of smallpox, it is a different disease with much lower mortality.

Symptoms of monkeypox are most often mild: fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, swelling of the lymph nodes or rashes… These affect the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet, throat, groin and genital and/or anal areas. Pain at the anal level, damage to the tonsils can also be observed. The skin lesions are flat at first and then fill with fluid before forming a scab which will eventually fall off.

Some people are still at risk of serious forms: pregnant women, children or people whose immune defenses are impaired. Monkeypox can lead to medical complications in them (skin superinfections, pneumonia or even eye problems and neurological damage).

What to do in case of infection?

How do we catch it?

Human-to-human transmission, at the origin of the current epidemic, takes place through close contact with an infected person. For example, face-to-face encounters during which respiratory droplets are transmitted (sputter, sneeze, etc.). But also direct contact of the skin or mucous membranes with rashes. Sexual intercourse is therefore a real vector of transmission of the disease.

The environment of a sick person is also contaminated by the virus. Clothing, linens or objects such as electronic devices and other surfaces are affected.

How to react ?

In the event of symptoms, it is necessary to contact your doctor or a Cegidd (free center for information, screening and diagnosis). A biological analysis by PCR test is most often recommended. If the result is positive, you must self-isolate for at least 21 days from the date of onset of symptoms. An assessment in search of a sexually transmitted infection may be proposed.

How to prevent and cure?


In the majority of cases, the symptoms go away on their own. In 2 to 4 weeks, the disease is cured spontaneously by the fall of the cutaneous crusts. But for that, it is important not to scratch the lesions. Covering them can therefore be a good solution.

To relieve some symptoms, pain and fever medications may be used.

Means of prevention

Isolation of infected persons is intended to reduce transmission. In case of infection, it is essential to inform the contact subjects. People living in the same household, sexual partners, or close contacts for more than 3 hours. Within a maximum period of 14 days, contact subjects can be vaccinated by contacting a Ceggid. The so-called post-exposure vaccination is all the more effective if it is administered early.

People at risk of contracting monkeypox are called to to get vaccinated. This pre-exposure vaccination is recommended for men who have sex with men. But also trans people with multiple sexual partners, or sex workers. Vaccination locations are available on the website: . Vaccination is free and does not require a vital card. Furthermore, risk reduction (information campaign, reduction in the number of partners) is effective.


Monkeypox is contagious from the time the first symptoms appear until the scabs fall off. this disease can affect anyone, but the most common cases are men who have had sex with other men (more than 95%).

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