The Orth poxvirus is the umbrella where monkey pox is found. This includes many variants including small pox, skunk pox, cowpox and other contagious viruses. Scientists use the name of the animal. The virus is used to associate the animal with person transmission.
Like smallpox, the monkeypox virus is highly contagious. The Great Smallpox Epidemic in 1837 is thought to have caused the death of tens of thousands of American Indians. Blankets and linens from a smallpox infirmary were passed to tribes along the Missouri River by the US Army, leading to catastrophic disease outbreaks and death becoming a national tragedy that resonates today.
Monkeypox can be spread by contact with clothing, bedding, and surface contact with the contaminated objects, which illustrates this disease is not specific to the LGBTQ+ community. This being said, it is also contracted through respiratory droplets when talking closely with someone infected, in closed areas with poor ventilation or where people are in close proximity to each other. Monkeypox is also contracted by sexual contact in hetero and homosexual exchanges. If a rash is present and contact is made with the skin or clothing of another, the virus can be spread.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, July 2022) monkeypox signs and symptoms are as follows: After infection, there is an incubation period of roughly one to two weeks. The development of initial symptoms (e.g., fever, malaise, headache, weakness, etc.) marks the beginning of the prodromal period.
A feature that distinguishes infection with monkeypox from that of smallpox is the development of swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy). Swelling of the lymph nodes may be generalized (involving many different locations on the body) or localized to several areas (e.g., neck, groin, armpit).
Shortly after the prodrome, a rash appears. Lesions typically begin to develop simultaneously and evolve together on any given part of the body (e,g., head, neck, hands, face, oral cavity, genitalia, anal). (CDC, 2022).
The illness typically lasts two to four weeks. The severity of illness can depend upon the initial health of the individual, the route of exposure and the strain of the infecting virus. Person-to-person spread is well documented for Central African monkeypox virus.
Understanding the symptoms is important in being mentally prepared if there has been contract with the virus. You may experience extreme fatigue, headaches, muscle aches and pain from the rash and developing sores and pustules. Understand that the virus is not limited to your hands, feet, torso, mouth, vaginal area or rectum. The disease can develop inside the body causing excruciating pain when eating and during bowel movements. Bleeding may occur in internal rectal sites of the sores, contributing to severe pain. Immediately address pain management with your doctor if you experience intolerable pain. Knowing this disease can impact anyone, young, old, professional, students —anyone.
As with all infectious diseases, the goal is to stop the spread. Know what the rash and sores look like in advance. If experiencing mental distress, contact 988 to be connected to a mental health professional to discuss any fears or issues impacting your sleep, appetite or ability to function as you had before contracting the virus.
The first step is to reach out to your doctor or call the Texas Public Health Department at 832-393-4220 and request the Monkeypox Team to be directed to a testing site in your community. If you test positive, your doctor can obtain a form from Texas Department of Health for a vaccination based on specific factors unique to you or someone you know. Next, reduce the risk of spread by using masks in crowded spaces to reduce the risk of airborne contamination, keep personal space, limit the risk of sexual spread by limiting sexual encounters and know your partner.
While writing this article I had George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” (also known as the “Monogamy Mix”) playing over in my head, written in the 1980s at the height of AIDS. Its message is as timely now as it was then. Explore Monogamy.