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Monkeypox isn’t in Michigan. Yet. Here’s what you need to know

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Monkeypox isn’t as easily spread as COVID-19, meaning the chances of catching it are very low. That’s good, because the symptoms can be nasty. (Shutterstock)

After a once-in-a-century pandemic, it can be scary to hear news accounts of the spread of another illness you’ve never heard of.

There are seven confirmed or presumptive cases of monkeypox in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a small number, and officials say it's unlikely to spread as fast or far as COVID-19.

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Still, the CDC warns that more cases are likely of the exotic-sounding virus, which has — as of Tuesday — not been detected in Michigan.

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When it comes to monkeypox, here’s what you need to know:

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral infection that is closely related to smallpox. According to the World Health Organization, the case fatality rates usually fall between 3-6 percent.

Smallpox vaccination efforts helped mostly eradicate smallpox in the United States, and those vaccinations also provide protections against monkeypox.

How do I know if I have it?

Monkeypox and smallpox have similar symptoms. People with monkeypox often have typical flu-like symptoms, including fevers, headaches, backaches, muscle aches and chills. As the illness progresses, it’s normal to develop a rash with blister-like pustules and scabs.

The biggest difference between smallpox and monkeypox is the latter causes lymph nodes to swell.  

After becoming infected with monkeypox, it is typical to start showing symptoms within 7-14 days. However, it may take up to 21 days to develop symptoms.

How do I get it?

The virus is transmitted when someone comes into contact with the virus. It can be transmitted from other humans, animals or materials that are contaminated, according to the CDC.

If coming from an animal, the transmission usually occurs through a bite or scratch causing broken skin. 

“You would have to have been in really close contact with someone who actively has monkeypox, which you would probably know at the time,” Linda Vail, Ingham County health officer said. “The chances of you getting exposed is really really slim … It is a direct contact transmission.” 

Is this a new disease?

No. The first human case of monkeypox was discovered in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monkeypox in the United States is rare, and cases usually stem from international travel or from importing animals from countries that are more prone to have the disease, typically from central and western Africa.

However, more cases have been popping up in places where it is uncommon, including North America and Europe.

Does monkeypox come from monkeys?

Nope! 

Monkeypox got its name because the first discovered case of the disease was found in monkeys, in a colony in 1958, according to the CDC. But other animals, including rodents and other primates including humans, can be hosts of the virus.

What should I do if I think I have monkeypox? 

If you think you have monkeypox, you should seek treatment at a local hospital or visit your doctor. Doctors and physicians should report all potential cases to local and national health organizations — even if the cases aren’t confirmed, according to the World Health Organization. 

It can be treated with antiviral medicine used for smallpox as well. 

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“It’s treatable. It can be serious, but seeking attention early is the biggest thing,”  Vail said.

How worried do I need to be?

Monkeypox in the United States is incredibly rare. As of right now, there are no known cases in Michigan, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Chelsea Wuth said.

“We will inform the public if the risk assessment changes or if we receive new information about the risk of transmission of monkeypox in Michigan,” Wuth said via email.

Added Vail, “While it’s (in the U.S.), and while it sounds scary, and while we’ve heard of a few cases, the risk of anybody contracting monkeypox is very, very low.”

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