The virus can also spread by touching or sharing contaminated items such as clothing and bedding, or by the respiratory droplets produced by sneezing or coughing, the WHO said.
That may sound eerily familiar, as in the early days of the pandemic, many experts said the coronavirus also had little human-to-human transmission beyond respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. Later research showed that the coronavirus can spread through much smaller particles, called aerosols, with the ability to travel distances of more than six feet. But that doesn’t mean the same will be true for monkeypox virus, said Luis Sigal, an expert on smallpox viruses at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The coronavirus is a small, single-stranded RNA virus, which may have contributed to its ability to become airborne. However, the monkeypox virus is made of double-stranded DNA, meaning the virus itself is much larger and heavier and can’t travel that far, said Dr. signal.
Other routes of monkey pox transmission include mother-to-fetus through the placenta or through close contact during and after birth.
The majority of cases this year have been in young men, many of whom identified themselves as having sex with men, although experts are cautious about suggesting that monkeypox transmission may be through semen or other bodily fluids exchanged during sex. Instead, contact with infected lesions during sex may be a more plausible route. “This is not a gay disease, as some people on social media have tried to label it,” said Dr. Andy Seale, an advisor to the WHO’s HIV, Hepatitis and STI Program during Monday’s Q&A. “Anyone can get monkey pox from close contact.”
What are the symptoms and how bad can a monkeypox infection get?
Monkeypox is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox, but it’s typically a much milder condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms appear on average within six to 13 days of exposure, but can take up to three weeks. People who get sick often experience fever, headache, back and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, and general exhaustion.
About one to three days after developing a fever, most people also develop a painful rash characteristic of smallpox viruses. It starts with flat red spots that become raised and filled with pus over the next five to seven days. The rash can start on the patient’s face, hands, feet, inside the mouth, or genitals and spread to the rest of the body. (Although chickenpox causes a similar-looking rash, it is not a true smallpox virus, but is caused by the unrelated varicella-zoster virus).
Once a person’s pustules clear up in two to four weeks, they are no longer contagious, Angela said Rasmussen, a virologist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.