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If This Sounds Like You, You May be in Danger of Getting Monkeypox

The virus has been reported on 5 continents.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

This week, the CDC raised its monkeypox alert to level 2, reporting that the virus has been reported on five continents. Although experts have said they don't believe that monkeypox will become an epidemic, it's natural to wonder how vulnerable you might be to the virus. Experts said this week that a certain group of people may be well-protected against monkeypox. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


This Group May Be Protected From Monkeypox

Cheerful practitioner holding syringe and smiling

Older people are the most likely to experience severe effects from any virus, from the flu to COVID. It's due to the simple biological fact that the aging immune system is weaker. But this week, experts told The New York Times that this demographic may have added protection against monkeypox, thanks to the smallpox vaccine. 

For decades, smallpox vaccination was routine. This was stopped in 1972, and smallpox was considered eradicated in 1980. People who were immunized against smallpox may be infected with monkeypox, but they should be protected against severe illness, experts said. One study found that a person immunized against smallpox 75 years previously still had high levels of antibodies to the virus.  

"The bottom line is that even those that were vaccinated many decades before maintain a very, very high level of antibodies and the ability to neutralize the virus," said Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, scientific director of the National Institute on Aging. "Even if they were vaccinated 50 years ago, that protection should still be there."


What Is Monkeypox?

Young Business Man Sneezing. Coughing Into His Sleeve or Elbow to Prevent Spread Covid-19. Corona Virus

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It's spread by coming into contact with a person or animal who has the virus, or items that are contaminated with it. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or mucous membranes like the eyes, nose, or mouth. "Human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets," says the CDC. "Respiratory droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact is required."


Symptoms of Monkeypox

Woman being sick having flu lying on sofa looking at temperature on thermometer. Sick woman lying in bed with high fever.

According to the CDC, these are the first symptoms of monkeypox:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

One to three days after a fever begins, a person with monkeypox develops a rash that often starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Lesions ultimately scab over and fall off. The illness can last two to four weeks. In Africa, where the disease is most often seen, about 10% of cases are fatal.


Is Monkeypox Another COVID?

woman covered by a blanket on the sofa with high fever and flu

Experts say monkeypox is unlikely to become a threat on the level of COVID-19. Monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID, and unlike COVID, monkeypox is a virus that has been studied for a long time, and a vaccine already exists. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said officials have been preparing for a monkeypox outbreak "for decades."

"We're lucky to have vaccines and therapeutics — things that can mitigate all that," said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Times. "We do have the ability to stop this virus."

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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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