What are the symptoms and is it contagious?

The number of people infected with monkeypox in the Netherlands has risen to more than 500. The RIVM announced this on July 11, 2022. More than 10,000 cases have now been recorded worldwide.

In this article I discuss everything you need to know about monkeypox (monkeypox), such as:

  • What are the symptoms?
  • how contagious
  • Whether there is a treatment or a vaccine
  • Whether a new pandemic is coming

This article was last updated on July 18, 2022.

What is monkeypox virus?

Monkeypox virus, commonly referred to as monkeypox, is a viral infection that occurs mainly in West and Central Africa. The virus occurs mainly in rodents, but people are also increasingly infected. It belongs to the same family as the smallpox virus.

Monkeypox virus is sometimes abbreviated to MPV or MPXV.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox disease?

If you have monkeypox, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle strain
  • fatigue
  • goosebumps
  • swollen lymph nodes

Thus, monkeypox complaints are partly similar to those associated with the coronavirus.

a path

In most people, the disease is mild. At first you will have flu-like symptoms. One to three days after the first symptoms of monkeypox, you will develop blisters on the skin.

In Europe we are dealing with a mild form of monkeypox.

Marion Copmans (virologist)

The blisters usually start on the face or around the anal and pubic area and only then on the rest of the body. Sometimes the blisters do not spread to the rest of the body. The blisters are similar to those found in chickenpox, but are slightly larger.

After the blisters dry, crusts that ooze from the skin remain after about 2 to 3 weeks. Sometimes scars can form.

How do you get monkeypox?

The monkeypox virus is contagious through skin-to-skin contact and the exchange of bodily fluids. The virus can be transmitted from a human or animal. The virus rarely spreads through the air.

Therefore, monkeypox is not as contagious as Covid-19. The longest known “chain of infection” to date consists of nine people.

The monkeypox virus does not spread easily, but the longer you have it, the greater the risk that it will continue to adapt.

Ab Osterhaus (Virologist)

The monkeypox virus is spread mainly among men who have sex with other men. Although the virus is certainly not limited to this group.

Incubation period and infection

The time between infection and illness due to monkeypox is between 5 and 21 days. The average incubation period is 8.5 days, but it may take up to 3 weeks before symptoms appear.

A person is contagious until scales fall off the skin. This may take two to three weeks.

agricultural quarantine

You should be quarantined if you have been in high-risk contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox. This is the case if you have had skin contact with an infected person.

Have you been in contact with an infected person? Then you have to quarantine for three weeks.

How do I know if I have monkeypox?

The symptoms (described above) will give you a good idea of ​​whether you have had monkeypox virus.

Get the test if:

  • You have blisters on your body (especially if they start around your anus, genitals, or face)
  • If you have had (intimate) contact with someone who has monkeypox in the past 3 weeks

It is only possible to determine whether you have had monkeypox virus with a special GGD test. This is a PCR laboratory test because it is the most accurate. If the test is positive, an investigation from the source and contact will follow.

Is monkeypox fatal?

The monkeypox virus can be fatal, but fortunately most people recover on their own.

In West Africa, the number of people who die of monkeypox is about 1 to 3.6 percent. With the Central African variant, up to 10 percent of those infected can die. The mortality rate drops dramatically if patients receive appropriate treatment.

In Europe, we are dealing with the milder species from West Africa.

The following groups fall under the hazard category:

  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Children
  • pregnant

Is there a cure for monkeypox?

There is no safe and proven way to treat monkeypox.

There is an antiviral drug against monkeypox that is prescribed to people with serious complaints. However, this drug has only a supportive effect.


There has been a vaccine (Imvanex) against smallpox for some time, which can also be used to protect against monkeypox. Often people born before 1974 have already had such a vaccination. The Netherlands still has a stockpile of nearly 100,000 modern smallpox vaccines.

People at increased health risk have been vaccinated prophylactically since July 7, 2022. You will receive an invitation for this.

The vaccination cannot be requested through the GGD.

Will there be a new pandemic?

Virologists consider the chance of a new pandemic unlikely. At the same time, much remains unclear about this virus and the possible mutations that could arise.

With what we know about this virus, it is almost not contagious and therefore it is better to stop it, there is a vaccine and there are treatment options. So I suppose that will have enough effect.

Marion Copmans (virologist)

The World Health Organization describes the recent outbreak as unusual, but manageable for now.

You’ll find more questions and answers about monkeypox on the RIVM website.

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