The CDC reported that Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.
Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Previously, almost all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals. These cases occurred on multiple continents.
There are two types (or clades) of monkeypox virus: West African and Congo Basin. Infections in the current outbreak are from the West African type. Infections with the type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak—the West African type—are rarely fatal. Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die.
Although the West African type is rarely fatal, symptoms can be extremely painful, and people might have permanent scarring resulting from the rash.
The Congo Basin type of monkeypox virus has a fatality rate of around 10%.
At this time, the risk of monkeypox in the United States is believed to be low. Monkeypox does not spread easily between people; however, anyone in close contact with a person with monkeypox can get it and should take steps to protect themselves. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.