Mpox, previously monkeypox, is a viral disease that mainly prevails in West and Central Africa. The disease mainly affects rodents, but may also be transmitted from these animals to humans. Occasionally, an infected person may travel from Africa to Europe. The symptoms of the disease are usually mild.
How do you catch monkeypox?
Most people get the disease after contact with an infected human or animal that carries the virus. The virus can enter through the mucous membranes (for example mouth, nose, eyes, but also through sexual contact), or open wounds. The virus can also spread through droplets from vesicles or from the mouth-pharynx. For that reason, it is recommended to keep your distance from people who have been diagnosed with the disease. When there is no close contact, monkeypox does not spread quickly.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of monkeypox are generally quite mild and patients almost always recover within 2-4 weeks. The symptoms usually present themselves 6-16 days after infection (referred to as the incubation period). The disease often (but not always) begins with flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, aching muscles, swollen lymph nodes, shivers and/or fatigue. After 1-3 days, patients develop a rash, which starts with blotches that eventually become blisters. The rash mostly affects the face first and then spreads to the rest of the body. After the blisters have dried out, scabs develop and eventually detach from the skin after 2-3 weeks.
When is the disease contagious?
People infected with the monkeypox virus can transmit the disease to others from the moment that general disease symptoms (e.g. fever above 38.5˚C) present themselves, or two days before the rash has presented itself. The virus is transmissible until the blisters and/or wounds have dried out.
No national measures have been announced for the Netherlands, nor are they likely to be. If you develop monkeypox-like symptoms, contact your general practitioner. You should also contact your GP or the outpatient clinic for sexually transmitted diseases (“soa-poli” in Dutch) if you have been in close contact with an infected person in the past three weeks. Keep a safe distance from people who have been diagnosed with monkeypox.
If you are diagnosed with monkeypox, the doctor is obliged to report this to the municipal health authorities (GGD), who then conduct further research and decide what other steps are required (e.g. quarantine or isolation) for the patient and their close contacts.
How do you prevent mpox?
Prevent monkeypox by having fewer or no risky contacts. A monkeypox vaccine exists, which is only used for the contacts of infected persons.