PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With cases of monkeypox popping up throughout the United States, and recently in the Pacific Northwest, the University of Washington is looking into the virus and how it compares to others.
Michael Gale Jr., a professor of immunology at the UW’s School of Medicine, said monkeypox deserves as much caution as the U.S. gave smallpox in generations past, with the knowledge that the symptoms of monkeypox are known to be less severe.
“Everybody — even if you’re not in an outbreak area — needs to be aware that monkeypox is here,” said Gale, who is also the director of UW’s Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease. “It hasn’t been studied enough to know how contagious it is from person to person because the outbreaks have been small and sporadic.”
Smallpox, which was eradicated globally in 1980, is a cousin to monkeypox, according to a press release by the school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting monkeypox.
“Past data… suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox,” the CDC said.
Gale said fewer similarities exist between COVID-19 and monkeypox. The announcement says as a DNA virus, monkeypox is unlikely to produce as many variant strains as do RNA viruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The World Health Organization is investigating the modes of transmission involved in the current monkeypox outbreak. UW said the virus historically has spread between people through close physical contact and exposure to lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and possibly through contaminated materials such as bedding.
“(Symptoms) are very similar to smallpox: rash, fever — you know, not feeling well. I think monkeypox almost always gives swollen lymph nodes, so that’s a signal that there’s really something going on — if your lymph nodes swell up,” Gale explained.
How easy is it to contain monkeypox? KOIN 6 News looked to an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University for answers.