Travel Health Update: Monkeypox

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Published: Friday, 03 Jun 2022 Author:

Michigan State University, through its partnerships with the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ingham County Department of Health, and our overseas programs medical provider International SOS, closely monitors monkeypox in relation to our global work and academic programs.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. The name ‘monkeypox’ comes from the virus’s first discovery in colonies of monkeys kept for research. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone. Most infections are in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Monkeypox cases in people have occurred outside of Africa linked to international travel or imported animals, including cases in the United States, as well as Israel, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. The natural reservoir of monkeypox remains unknown, but African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbor the virus and infect people.

 In humans, the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox. The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days, and the illness typically lasts for 2−4 weeks.

Early symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • exhaustion
  • chills
  • swollen lymph nodes (key difference from smallpox)

Later symptoms include:

  • rash, typically beginning on the face and spreading to other parts of the body
  • lesions

The information above draws from the CDC’s Monkeypox resource pages. MSU-sponsored travelers with concerns about monkeypox are advised to contact International SOS, MSU’s international medical and security assistance providers. They have medical specialists who can provide additional information, guidance and consultations as needed.