Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's
Updated Aug. 8, 2022
As monkeypox becomes more prevalent in the United States and around the world, many people are wondering how concerned they should be that the outbreak could affect them.
We understand that many parents and caregivers have questions about monkeypox. We spoke to Dr. Wassim Ballan, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Phoenix Children’s, to answer parents’ most common questions about monkeypox.
Q: What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
A: The symptoms of monkeypox may include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (sore throat, nasal congestion, cough)
- A rash that may be located on or near the genitals or anus, but could also be on other areas like hands, feet, chest, face or mouth.
- The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
- The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
A person infected with monkeypox may start showing symptoms as early as 4 days and up to 21 days from their last exposure. Flu-like symptoms may come first, then a rash 1-4 days later. Recovery takes around 3 weeks. The lesions are very painful, so management usually includes pain control.
To see what monkeypox rash looks like, visit the CDC website.
Q: How is monkeypox spread?
A: Casual contact is not primarily how monkeypox spreads. Monkeypox is primarily spread through:
- Prolonged skin to skin contact
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs or bodily fluids
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact
- Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that have previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
The spread of monkeypox is prevented by avoiding these prolonged types of contact.
Q: What should someone do if they have monkeypox?
A: If you suspect you have monkeypox, self-isolate at home until notified of a negative test, until cleared by public health, or until all skin lesions have scabbed over and a new layer of skin has formed.
During this time, avoid close contact and do not share items with other people and animals, including pets. Wear a mask and cover all lesions if you must be around others.
Q: Are tests available for monkeypox? Are they available for kids?
A: Monkeypox testing is available for all ages, but it is important to note that kids get rashes often – so not every rash should raise concern for monkeypox. But if parents are unsure, they should check with their pediatrician.
Tests can be done at most healthcare facilities including some outpatient clinics. Call your provider before going in.
Q: What are the treatment and vaccination options for monkeypox?
A: There are vaccines and medications available for certain patient populations. The vaccines can be used as both a prevention and post-exposure tool if administered within a short time after exposure. Contact your doctor if you’re unsure whether you are eligible for the monkeypox vaccine.
When patients are exposed to monkeypox, getting the vaccine within the first four days decreases the risk of infection. Patients who get the vaccine between days 4-14 after exposure may still have the infection, but with less severe symptoms.
There is one FDA-approved medication for monkeypox for all age groups including children, but it can only be obtained from public health departments. The CDC is working on improving access to this medicine.
Q: Are there long-term implications of monkeypox?
A: Monkeypox can lead to long-term scarring, depending on the body parts affected.
The mortality rate is low, but kids are at high risk if they get monkeypox. If you suspect your child has monkeypox, contact your pediatrician.
Q: How is monkeypox different from COVID-19?
A: Monkeypox is a very different virus from COVID-19 and the situation surrounding the virus is also very different. While COVID-19 is an airborne virus that is highly transmissible, monkeypox is much easier to contain if the right precautions are in place.
COVID-19 was a novel virus, meaning we had never seen it before. Monkeypox is not a new virus. We have known about it since the 1970s and have two effective vaccines and medications to manage it.