Is Monkeypox a Pandemic? Will There Be a Lockdown? Your FAQs Answered

Monkeypox FAQ: Is it an STD? How is it treated? Here are some fast facts about monkeypox that you should know.

4 min read

Confirmed cases of monkeypox in India have gone up to 13, since it was first detected in a 35 year old, on 14 July, in Kerala.

The latest confirmed case is a 30 year old Nigerian woman from Delhi,

Since the begining of 2022, monkeypox has been spreading in clusters across the world prompting health authorities to take cognizance of it.

On 23 July, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency, does this mean it's a pandemic?

How does it spread? How is it treated?

FIT answers your questions about monkeypox.


What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral illness caused by the monkeypox virus. It's a zoonosis which means it jumped to humans from animals like rodents and primates.

Monkeypox is not a new virus. It is considered an 'endemic' in parts of Central and West Africa, particularly in areas close to the tropical rainforests.

If it's not a new illness, why are we talking about it now?

Monkeypox may not be a new virus, but the unexplained outbreaks of the disease in other parts of the world, and numbers rising rapidly, is what led to the World Health Organization declaring it a global public health emergency,

How does it spread?

Speaking to FIT, Epidemiologist and Public Health expert, Dr Chandrakant Lahariya explained that monkeypox is not a respiratory illness. It is a contact illness.

It is a disease that spreads through skin-to-skin contact, or direct contact with the skin lesions.

Moreover, "unless the person is symptomatic, the person is not infectious," said Dr Lahariya.

Is it an STD?

Initial media coverage of monkeypox, when it first started spreading in the beginning of the year, made it seem like a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because a majority of the patients identified happened to be men who have sex with men (MSM).

It isn't an STD, says Dr Chandrakant Lahariya. It's spreads through close contact, which means that sexual activity increases the risk of transmission, but it's not the only way it spreads.

Anyone can get it.

How many cases have been detected in the world?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), so far, more than 41,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 96 countries since the outbreaks first came under the radar of health authorities in March 2022.

Are the cases severe? Have any deaths been reported?

Although Monkeypox can turn fatal in some cases, it doesn't happen often. According to early genome sequencing data, the strain of the virus that's going around now is of a mild variety.

So far, at least 12 deaths have been reported in countries where the disease is not endemic.

What about the cases in India?

So far, 13 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in India. Two more, one in Delhi and one in Telangana, are suspected cases who have the symptoms, but have not been confirmed yet.

All the identified patients are stable and recovering with symptomatic treatment, according to reports.

3 of the initial cases in India were reported in Kerala in men who had recently flown in from the UAE.

In her most recent update, Kerala Health Minister Veena George has said that the patients are stable, adding that there is 'no need to be afraid.'

WHO has declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency. What does it mean?

According to the WHO, a public-health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) or a global health emergency is 'an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.'


This definition suggests a situation that is:

  1. Serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected

  2. Carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border

  3. May require immediate international action

This was the fifth time that the agency has declared a global emergency.

The last time the WHO declared a PHEIC was during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Does it mean that it's a pandemic?

Not necessarily. A public health emergency is not the same as a pandemic.

There are no official guidelines for what makes a pandemic. Instead, it is a word used by experts to emphasize the global spread of a disease, as well as the need for a global collective action.

Furthermore, speaking to FIT, Dr Chandrakant explained that a pandemic is declared when a disease or a virus has a widespread socio-economic impact, adding that in the case of monkeypox, "that is not going to happen."

Will we go into another lockdown?

The fact that it is a public health emergency doesn't automatically mean that it will lead to lockdowns, either.

Lockdowns will depend on how the situation unfolds, how the disease spreads, and how virulent it is in the future.

According to the WHO, as things stand, "interference with international traffic remains low for the moment."

What are the symptoms to look out for?

Although monkeypox symptoms are less severe, they are similar to that of smallpox, and chickenpox.

  • Persistent fever for a few days

  • Swelling in the lymph nodes

  • Chills

  • Headache

  • Body ache

  • Painful blisters on the hands, feet and face (similar to chickenpox)


How is it treated?

Like smallpox and chickenpox, and most viral infections, monkeypox doesn't have a specific treatment either.

Most patients tend to recover in a few weeks with symptomatic management.

Do we have a vaccine for monkeypox?

Smallpox vaccines were found to be effective against monkeypox. However, when smallpox was eradicated in 1980, the vaccines were discontinued soon after as well.

Currently, there are two US FDA approved vaccines for monkeypox specifically - ACAM2000, JYNNEOS.

Both of these use the same principal and formula as the smallpox vaccines, but they have been modified to cause milder side effects than the smallpox vaccines.

Countries that have reported a large number of cases have already started offering the vaccine to people who fall in the 'high risk' catagory and are suspected of having come in contact with infected people.

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