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Your Covid-19 questions answered

How is monkeypox different to Covid-19?

25 May 2022 - 07:30
An image take during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1996 and 1997 shows the arms and torso of a patient with skin lesions from monkeypox.
An image take during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1996 and 1997 shows the arms and torso of a patient with skin lesions from monkeypox.
Image: CDC/Brian W.J. Mahy/Handout via REUTERS

Experts have explained there are significant differences between monkeypox and the coronavirus,

Dr Rosamund Lewis, head of the smallpox secretariat at the World Health Organization (WHO), said the two viruses are not the same.

“Covid-19 and monkeypox are not the same disease. Monkeypox is caused by a different virus and spreads in a different manner. The way it spreads is through close physical contact,” she said in a public Q&A session this week.

The virus spreads less easily than Covid-19, which is mainly transmitted between people who are in close contact with each other.

The WHO said the coronavirus is transmitted from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe. These particles range from larger respiratory droplets to smaller aerosols. 

WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said monkeypox transmission “is happening from close physical contact, skin-to-skin contact. It is quite different from Covid-19 in that sense”.

Lewis said the mutation rate for monkeypox is also “much lower” than for RNA viruses, such as Covid-19. This makes it a “more stable” virus than Covid-19.

Another key difference is that experts have been aware of monkeypox for several decades and know how to treat it, making it less unknown than the coronavirus.

The first confirmed human case was in 1970 when the virus was detected in a child suspected of having smallpox.

The virus is also less likely to cause severe illness and is rarely fatal. 

While both monkeypox and Covid-19 can cause headaches, fever, chills and fatigue, monkeypox symptoms include rash and lymphadenopathy.

“Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness and most cases will recover within a few weeks without treatment,” said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

LISTEN | Monkeypox not likely to become endemic in SA, says NICD 

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