Editor’s note: As of November 28, 2022, World Health Organization (WHO) and Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of “Mpox” as the term used to refer to monkeypox disease.
On June 30, 2022, Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) identified the first case of confirmed orthopoxvirus presumed to be Mpox in a Wisconsin resident. The rare illness was first discovered in 1958, in central and west Africa. From the same family as smallpox, Mpox virus typically involves a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body.
Central Wisconsin first experienced Mpox in 2003 when John Melski, M.D., and Erik Stratman, M.D., dermatologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System, discovered when a three and a half year old girl from central Wisconsin presented for treatment of an infection that occurred after bites from a pet prairie dog.
The most recent outbreak in 2022 started in United Kingdom, with three specific clusters in May. These clusters of individuals identified at sexual health clinics among men who have sex with men.
Those individuals experienced symptoms for several weeks. Some would get a rash first, followed by symptoms. Others only experienced a rash. Hospitalization is rare, and typically only to treat the pain from the lesions.
Symptoms of Mpox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
The rash goes through different stages before healing completely.
In most cases, people who have Mpox recover without needing treatment within two to four weeks.
While there is no specific treatment for Mpox, antiviral medications used to treat smallpox can be used. People who have been exposed to someone with Mpox may be eligible to receive a vaccine to prevent the onset of disease. DHS will work with health care providers to obtain vaccines and treatment when necessary.
Causes and spread
Unlike the COVID-19 virus, Mpox does not spread easily from person to person.
According to DHS, people must have close, sustained contact with an infected person to get the virus. This could be direct contact with skin lesions or body fluids of an infected person, sharing bedding or clothing or prolonged exposure to respiratory droplets.
“The difference in the current Mpox outbreak is it’s more likely to be sexually transmitted through intercourse,” said Dr. Stratman, comparing to the case he treated in 2003.
Like the case in 2003, Mpox also can be spread to people from animals through bites, scratches, preparation of wild game, and direct or indirect contact with the body fluids of an infected animal.
Dr. Stratman said the risk of getting Mpox is low unless you come in contact with someone who has the disease.
If you were exposed to Mpox, DHS recommends monitoring for symptoms for 21 days after your date of last exposure. DHS states that you can continue daily activities, like going to work or school, if you do not develop any symptoms.
You should check your temperature two times per day during your monitoring period. If symptoms begin, contact your provider immediately and isolate away from others.
Learn more about Mpox from this quick interview with Kate Maguire, the director of infection prevention with Marshfield Clinic Health System.