Monkey pox, as the name implies, is a zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in monkeys. But it is also transferable to humans

What are monkey pox?

Monkey pox, as the name implies, is a zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in monkeys. But it is also transferable to humans. The virus is transmitted, for example, through the consumption of rhesus meat.

Monkey pox is an infectious disease transmitted by a virus called Orthopoxvirus simiae or monkey pox. This pathogen is particularly common in Africa. The main distribution area is in West Africa and Central Africa.

There are particularly tree growers such as various types of crocodile and rats infected. Through these animals, the virus transmits to the living in these areas monkeys, especially Javanese monkeys and rhesus monkeys. For the first time 14 years ago monkeypox appeared in American prairie dogs. They are said to have been transferred to a US zoo by a large rat from Ghana.

In recent years, outbreaks of monkey pox have occasionally occurred in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo. Fortunately, the number of new diseases is fortunately relatively low. The annual incidence is only 0.6 per 10, 000 people.


Since monkey meat is often on the human menu in Africa, the disease is also transmitted to humans in this way, triggering a smallpox disease that strongly resembles human pox (caused by the virus Orthopoxvirus variola).

Also through the secretion and the blood of diseased animals, for example by bites and scratching wounds a contagion is possible, however the danger of infection on this way is rather small. The infection with monkeypox from person to person, however, is extremely rare.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

After an incubation period of about two weeks on average, monkey pox breaks out. They first express high fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes. Also, sore throat, headache, joint pain, muscle aches and coughing occur.

Later, a rash, pimples and blisters develop in the infected. From these, a small-pox-like large-area skin rash forms on the affected skin areas, especially on the face, but also on the neck and groin. The bark will dry out in the course of about two weeks.

When they finally fall off, they often leave the typical dents or pockmarks, which also show in the human smallpox. With the so-called chickenpox, the disease has nothing to do. These are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which does not belong to the poxviruses. In the early stages of the disease, the monkey pox are often confused with measles, with scarlet fever, herpes zoster, mumps or cowpox.

Diagnosis & History

For the diagnosis of monkey pox, the detection of the virus by examination of the smallpox scab, the Pockensekrets or smears in the throat.

With a cell culture, the detection of the disease takes a few days, with other special procedures only a few hours. The diagnosis is always carried out in special laboratories. The occurrence of lymph node swelling in the lower jaw, in the neck and groin region is also typical for monkey pox.

Monkey pox is a notifiable disease in many countries. The disease course of this smallpox form is very similar to that of human pox, but often a bit milder. A previously healthy person with an intact immune system hardly dies of the disease today.

Weak old or poorly fed people and young children, on the other hand, are at greater risk. The mortality rate in monkey pox is between one and a maximum of ten percent of the infected persons, depending on the region of the outbreak. This is lower than the mortality rate of human smallpox.


As a result of monkey pox infection, various complications occur. First, the infection leads to fever, chills, headaches and coughing. After a few days, painful lumps often develop, which later develop into pustules and leave scars. In addition, other skin lesions such as generalized exanthems may occur.

Existing skin diseases are exacerbated by monkey pox, which can sometimes lead to unbearable pain and itching. Rarely, as a result of the infection myalgia and arthralgia, so diffuse muscle and joint pain, which decay only slowly after recovery. In the absence of vaccination, monkey pox additionally can cause laryngitis, tonsillitis and conjunctivitis.

In addition, there is often a swelling of the lymph nodes, which is rarely associated with hormonal disorders. If monkey pox is not treated in time, it will lead to organ failure and circulatory collapse, and ultimately death. Particularly at risk are children and elderly or debilitated people as well as cardiovascular patients and people with an existing smallpox vaccine. The mortality rate in monkey pox is between one and ten percent, depending on the region of the outbreak and the time between infection and therapy.

When should you go to the doctor?

Monkey pox is a zoonotic viral disease that can cause not only high fever and chills after an incubation period of about two weeks. Rather, throat, head, joint and muscle pains as well as cough and swollen lymph nodes (especially on the lower jaw) are among the symptoms that must first be discussed with an internist. This will probably be referred to a virologist for co-treatment or further treatment.

If there is a rash of blisters, pimples, and redness that extends to a large rash, especially on the face, neck, and groin, in most cases treatment will be accompanied or continued by a dermatologist.

If the course is characterized by mild fever and coughing and a rash that does not spread, a doctor's visit is often unnecessary. However, the infected person should observe himself very well, and in case of deterioration, consult the doctor directly. If it remains in the harmless form of monkey pox and fall off the bark after drying by itself, the worst is over. This final stage will take about two weeks.

Persons who are physically weakened or suffer from deficiency symptoms (malnutrition) should not refrain from a medical diagnosis and treatment. The same applies if children were infected.

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Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of monkey pox in general is limited to the treatment of the symptoms and the prevention of secondary infections. In addition to strict bed rest, antipyretic drugs are generally prescribed, as well as headache remedies and anti-sore throat medicines that give joint and muscle aches.

In a so-called superinfection, patients are usually also given special antibiotics. If the disease is over, there is a lifelong protection against re-infection with the monkey pox virus but also with the human poxvirus. There is a cross immunity with the variola virus.

Outlook & Forecast

The monkey pox comes to various complaints that resemble a fever disease. The monkey pox are very dangerous for humans and therefore must be treated promptly in any case. It is primarily a strong fever and chills and a lethargy. The affected person feels tired and ill and the load capacity decreases enormously. Furthermore, pain also occurs in the muscles and joints and the lymph nodes swell up. The skin forms a reddish rash, which is often covered with blisters and pimples.

The diagnosis of monkey pox is not always easy for a physician to steal, because the symptoms are not always clearly assigned to a disease. For this reason, monkey pox treatment can not always be early.

Without treatment it comes to inflammations in different regions of the body and thus also to an organ failure. At the same time the patient finally dies. The treatment of monkey pox is not associated with special compilations. The administration of antibiotics alleviates the symptoms and the disease can be completely controlled.


Since monkey pox is transmitted relatively frequently via the inter medial monkey, people should approach with the necessary caution to wild, but also to captive monkeys and approach the animals only protected to avoid bites or scratches. The same applies to the first-carrier of the virus.

For example, the African tree crescents are very cute, but they can still scratch and bite, spreading the virus. It is also very important to explain to Africans living in the African jungle that the consumption of rodent meat and monkey meat carries the risk of developing monkey pox.

There is a ban on imports of non-domesticated rodents and croakers from tropical Africa and prairie dogs from the United States throughout the EU. Another preventive measure against monkey pox is also the preventive vaccine against human smallpox (variola).

After a certain degree of vaccination in recent decades and fewer people were vaccinated against smallpox, the number of outbreaks with monkey pox increased again overall. Researchers also fear that the monkey pox viruses could genetically change and it could be easier in the future to human-to-human transmissions.


As a rule, no direct aftercare is possible with monkey pox. The disease must be treated as soon as possible by a doctor, so that further complications are avoided. In the worst case, the monkey pox can lead untreated to the death of the person or significantly limit the life expectancy of the patient.

In most cases, the disease is treated with the help of medication. The person concerned must pay attention to the regular intake and possible interactions with other medications in order to avoid complications. Especially in children, parents must force their children to take the medication so that the disease can be cured.

Likewise, antibiotics can also be taken. When taking antibiotics alcohol should be avoided because the alcohol would limit the effect of antibiotics. The patient generally has to rest and take care of his body.

At the same time strenuous activities or sports activities should be avoided as far as possible. In case of inflammation, a doctor must be consulted immediately. As a rule, early diagnosis and treatment lead to a positive course of the disease and not to any particular complications. The contact with the triggering animals should be interrupted in monkey pox.

You can do that yourself

People who have been diagnosed with monkey pox require immediate medical attention. In addition to the medical therapy, which consists of the gift of various medications and regular check-ups by the doctor, the patient must take care. The doctor will order strict bed rest and also advise a change of diet. Especially in the acute disease phase, the diet should be composed of gentle foods such as rusks or chicken broth. The patient must also drink a lot and avoid stimulants such as coffee or alcohol.

If it has already come to a superinfection, treatment in the hospital is required. Depending on how the disease progresses, the patient requires bed rest for several days to weeks after the hospital stay. In addition, it must be ensured that the disease has been completely cured. This is possible on the one hand by medical examinations and on the other hand by a good observation. Patients who notice unusual symptoms or discomfort should speak to the responsible physician immediately. In case of serious complications, the emergency doctor is best alerted or the affected person must be taken to the hospital immediately.

Other self-help measures focus on identifying the trigger for monkey pox and taking preventative measures.

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