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Explained: First monkeypox case confirmed in India, what are its key symptoms?

A case of monkeypox was confirmed in Kerala on July 14, the first such case in India. What are its symptoms and how can it be treated?

monkeypox, monkey pox kerala, what is monkey pox, monkey pox symptoms, express explained, indian expressThis 2003 electron microscope image shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)

The first case of monkeypox was confirmed in India on July 14, after a person who had returned to Kerala from abroad developed symptoms of the disease.

According to Kerala Health Minister Veena George, the infection was diagnosed in a person who had returned from the United Arab Emirates three days ago and had come into contact with another confirmed case in the UAE. The person’s samples were tested at the National Institute of Virology in Pune, which confirmed monkey pox on Thursday, the minister said.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease with symptoms similar to smallpox, although with less clinical severity. The CDC’s monkeypox overview says the infection was first discovered in 1958 following two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in colonies of monkeys kept for research — which led to the name ‘monkeypox’.

What are the key symptoms of monkeypox?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox begins with a fever, headache, muscle aches, back ache, and exhaustion. It also causes the lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy), which smallpox does not.

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The World Health Organisation underlines that it is important not to confuse monkeypox with chickenpox, measles, bacterial skin infections, scabies, syphilis and medication-associated allergies.

How long does it take for symptoms to show after infection?

Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks. The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5-21 days.

The Health Ministry notes that the period of communicability is “1-2 days before the rash until all the scabs fall off/get subsided”.


How does the disease progress?

The disease goes through four different phases. The first invasion period, which is between 0-5 days, is characterised by fever, headache and lymph node swelling.

The swelling of the lymphnodes is one of the characteristic features of monkeypox and is not observed in similar rash causing diseases like measles and chickenpox.

Patients also show generalized weakness or lack of energy.

Skin eruptions usually show up within two days of fever. The rash is more concentrated on the face as is apparent in 95 per cent cases. In 75 per cent cases, it is found in the palm and sole of the feet. It affects the oral mucous membrane in 70 per cent of the cases. The conjunctiva, cornea of the eye and the genital area can also get affected.


The skin eruption stage can last between 2 and 4 weeks, during which the lesions harden and become painful, fill up first with a clear fluid and then pus, and then develop scabs or crusts.

The Union Ministry of Health says that patients should isolate and watch out for pain in eye or blurring of vision, shortness of breath, and decrease in urine output.

Monkeypox: What is the treatment?

There is no proven treatment for monkeypox yet. The WHO recommends supportive treatment depending on the symptoms. Those infected are advised to isolate immediately.

According to the Ministry of Health guidelines on supportive management of monkeypox, skin rashes should be cleaned with simple antiseptic, and covered with light dressing in case of extensive lesions. Oral ulcers should be managed with warm saline gargles
Doctors say monkeypox is a very well-understood condition that can be managed efficiently with available clinical remedies. “We urge individuals to not panic and most importantly, not confuse monkeypox with another common viral infection,” said Dr Hemlata Arora, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Nanavati Hospital

First published on: 14-07-2022 at 09:02:16 pm
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