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With the 2022 outbreak of Monkeypox, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, how it spreads, and standard precautions that should be taken.

Orthopoxvirus, or “monkeypox,” is a rare pox-like disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Discovered in 1958, the monkeypox virus is in the same family as the variola virus, which is responsible for smallpox. Although monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox, the disease is milder and rarely fatal.  

There are no treatment options specifically for monkeypox. However, some antiviral medications and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may also work against monkeypox. 

Why the name “monkeypox”? The origin of the disease is still unknown, but it was first discovered in colonies of monkeys that were kept for research. The first case of monkeypox in humans was recorded in 1970. Before the outbreak in 2022, isolated human monkeypox cases were reported on multiple continents, usually related to importation of animals from regions where the disease commonly occurred. 

Signs & Symptoms 

A painful or itchy rash that resembles pimples or blisters in areas such as the penis, testicles, labia and vagina are characteristic of a person infected with monkeypox. The rash may also appear on the anus, hands, feet, chest, face, and/or mouth. 

The rash evolves over many stages before it eventually scabs and heals. 

Monkeypox may also include the following symptoms: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue, or exhaustion
  • Muscle soreness and backache
  • Headache
  • Sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough

Clients with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of the symptoms above. Some clients will receive the rash first, then receive the symptoms. Other clients will experience flu-like symptoms and then the rash. Sometimes clients will only experience a rash with no other symptoms. 

Although symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure, the disease usually lasts two to four weeks. For those clients who has flu-like symptoms, the rash will usually develop within one to four days of the symptoms beginning. It’s important to remember that monkeypox can be spread from the moment symptoms start until the rash is completely healed. You will know the rash has healed when all scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed. 

How it Spreads 

Learning how monkeypox spreads is the first step in protecting yourself and others from contracting the  virus. Generally, monkeypox is spread through close, personal contact. This contact is usually skin-to-skin, such as touching the rash, scabs or body fluids of someone infected with monkeypox. 

Direct contact with monkeypox can happen in many ways, including: 

  • Touching objects, surfaces, clothing, bedding, or towels that have been used by someone with monkeypox, including items that have not been disinfected after use.
  • Inhaling or ingesting the respiratory secretions of someone infected with monkeypox
  • Close, intimate contact (such as hugging, kissing, and sexual intercourse)

Standard Precautions and the Client’s Home 

Providing care for clients with a suspected or confirmed case of monkeypox can be done safely by employing Standard Precautions to protect yourself and prevent the spread of infection. Standard Precautions are common practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations that protect healthcare workers from becoming infected while working with ALL your patients and clients. 

As a reminder, here are the key actions for following Standard Precautions: 

  • Perform hand hygiene before and after each patient interaction, or when visibly soiled.
  • Use appropriate PPE for each client encounter
  • Follow cough etiquette
  • Isolate infected clients appropriately
  • Clean and disinfect all client care equipment and environments
  • Handle linen and laundry carefully
  • Handle needles and sharps carefully
  • Follow transmission-based precautions as appropriate for each client encounter

In addition, if you are caring for someone with suspected or confirmed monkeypox infection, keep yourself and your clients safe by doing the following: 

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. An alcohol-based sanitizer is also acceptable.
  • Always wear appropriate PPE (gown, gloves, mask and eye protection) while caring for the client and perform hand hygiene afterwards.
  • Avoid touching the rash or scabs of a client who has monkeypox, especially with your bare hands.
  • Disinfect the client’s environment, including cups, flatware and cutlery each shift.
  • Wear PPE when handling bedding, towels or clothing of a client with monkeypox. Perform hand hygiene once complete.
  • ShapeAvoid activities that can lift dried material from monkeypox sores such as use of portable fans, dry dusting, sweeping and vacuuming. If you must do so, be sure to wear proper PPE, including an N95 mask.
  • Provide a mask to your client if the client is travelling into a public area.

Monkeypox can be safely managed by informed healthcare workers. We’ve created a quick-reference guide that you can provide to your staff and display in your office. Download it here.  

Find out more information and stay up to date on monkeypox news by visiting

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