What You Need To Know About Monkeypox
1) What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease caused by infection with monkeypox virus that occurs in animals primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions. In areas where monkeypox is endemic in animals, the virus is thought to be maintained in nature through circulation among a number of susceptible mammals, namely wild rodents (including squirrels and rats), with occasional spill-over to non-human primates and humans.
2) How is monkeypox transmitted?
The most common route for transmission of monkeypox from animals to humans appears to be prolonged direct contact with infected animals. Humans can also catch monkeypox from being bitten by an infected animal, or by contact with or consumption of infected bushmeat. As with all wildlife encounters, please observe them from a distance. Do not attempt to touch, feed or approach wildlife.
3) Which animals can be affected?
Old and New World monkeys and apes, a variety of rodents (including rats, gerbils, chinchillas, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, and squirrels) and rabbits can be susceptible to infection.
More recently, monkeypox infection was reported in a pet domestic dog in France, most likely as a result of human-to-animal transmission following prolonged direct contact with its owners who were symptomatic with monkeypox. This was the first documented case of human-to-animal transmission of the monkeypox virus.
The list of animal species that can be infected by monkeypox will be updated when new scientific evidence is made available.
4) Can I catch monkeypox from animals?
The current outbreak of monkeypox appears to be primarily driven by human-to-human transmission, and there have been no recent reports of animal-to-human transmission.
With Singapore’s stringent requirements for the import of animals, the risk of catching monkeypox from susceptible imported animals in Singapore is low. We have not detected any suspect cases of monkeypox in local animal populations as well. As the worldwide situation for monkeypox is evolving, AVS will continue to monitor and review information that surfaces. AVS has also informed veterinary clinics and animal-related businesses through advisories on monkeypox.
It is recommended that you practise good hygiene when handling any animal, with thorough handwashing before and after direct contact with the animal, their supplies, food, and waste. If you are unwell, do limit your contact with animals, as you would with other people.
5) What clinical signs do animals with monkeypox show?
In rabbits and rodents (gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, chinchillas, rats etc), the initial signs include fever, reddened eyes, runny nose, cough, swollen glands, depression, and loss of appetite. Later, a rash with small swellings, containing pus (“pocks”), and patchy hair loss can develop. In some animals, pneumonia or death can occur. The recent case of dog that tested positive for monkeypox showed skin lesions.
In non-human primates, monkeypox is usually a rash that lasts for 4 to 6 weeks; these sores or “pocks” can be seen over the entire body but are most common on the face, limbs, palms, soles, and tails. Death is rare but can be seen in infant monkeys. Some monkeys can be infected with the virus but show no signs of illness.
6) I suspect my pet has monkeypox. What should I do?
Please bring your pet to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will assess the animal and inform AVS in the event of a suspect monkeypox infection, after ruling other common causes.
7) My pet has been diagnosed with monkeypox by a veterinarian. What should I do?
If your pet has been diagnosed with monkeypox, your veterinarian will provide more detailed guidance on the management of your pet. AVS will work closely with the veterinary professional community, to manage suspect and confirmed monkeypox cases in animals accordingly. These animals will require isolation for close observation and supportive care.
8) I am an animal handler / veterinary staff. How should I be handling animals suspected to have monkeypox?
When examining animals with suspected monkeypox, veterinary staff and animal handlers should use the following precautions:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with contaminated surfaces and the unwell animal.
- Use disposable gown and gloves for any contact with the sick animal and contaminated surfaces. Ideally, wear a NIOSH certified N95 respirator mask. If that is not available, wearing a surgical mask will protect you from large droplets.
- Eye protection like goggles should be worn if splash or spray of body fluids is expected.
- Disinfect all contaminated surfaces and dispose waste as biohazardous waste.
9) How do I protect myself from catching monkeypox from wildlife?
There has not been any detection of monkeypox in local wildlife to date. As with all wildlife encounters, please observe them from a distance. Do not attempt to touch, feed or approach wildlife.