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Subtle Signs You Have Monkeypox, Say Experts

Don’t ignore these symptoms of monkeypox.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Monkeypox cases have surpassed 1,000 worldwide, and virus experts are advising people to be aware of the signs and symptoms. "Based on the prior history of monkeypox over the past few decades, and from what we have seen so far with the number of cases now, monkeypox has not reached a level of threat comparable to the ongoing COVID pandemic," says infectious disease clinical specialist Seth Blumberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at UC San Francisco. "So, while I think we can be cautiously optimistic that the outbreak will be controlled, I think it's important to have some level of awareness about monkeypox and to be ready for the unexpected." Here are five signs of monkeypox you shouldn't ignore, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Sick woman with fever checking her temperature with a thermometer at home

The initial symptoms of monkeypox are not obvious, doctors say. "Monkeypox starts with fever, then general body aches, malaise, and muscle aches," says Dean Blumberg, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital. "The first symptoms are similar to influenza."



woman showing her itchy back with allergy rash urticaria symptoms

A slight rash is one of the first obvious signs of monkeypox. "The rash is similar in some senses, and different in others, to what we know about 'textbook' monkeypox," says UCSF infectious disease expert Peter Chin-Hong, MD. "The major difference in this current outbreak is that the rash appears to start in the genital area and the anus rather than the face or trunk. From the genitals, it can move to the arms and palms of the hands, and sometimes the face, including the mouth."


Pus-filled Blisters

Monkeypox rash eventually turns into blisters that spread around the body. "The type or nature of the rash is the same: it starts off as a red spot which evolves to fluid or pus-filled blisters which can then evolve into ulcers then scab off," says Dr. Chin-Hong. "They can be extremely painful, but not always."


Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen Lymph Nodes

"Monkeypox begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. The main difference between symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy) while smallpox does not," says the CDC.


What Is the DIfference Between Monkeypox and COVID-19?

Woman wearing a protective cloth mask.

While the smallpox vaccine still offers protection against monkeypox, COVID-19 vaccines need to be constantly updated. "Viruses have a remarkable ability to change over time by genetically mutating," says Dr. Blumberg. "But the rate of change is different for different viruses. The genes in monkeypox virus is encoded by DNA, while the genes in SARS-CoV-2 are encoded by RNA. RNA viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, tend to mutate much quicker than DNA viruses, such as monkeypox. Because of this it generally is harder to come up with a vaccine that remains effective for a long time against RNA viruses in comparison to DNA viruses." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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