How monkeypox compares to other familiar viruses

SPOKANE, Wash. — In light of the recently confirmed monkeypox case in Washington, many are wondering how the symptoms and severity of the virus compare with others, like COVID-19.

Michael Gale Jr, an immunology professor at UW Medicine, says monkeypox deserves as much caution as the United States gave smallpox in generations past, though its symptoms are known to be less severe.

“Everybody – even if you’re not in an outbreak area – needs to be aware that monkeypox is here,” Gale said. “It hasn’t been studied enough to know how contagious it is from person-to-person because the outbreaks have been small and sporadic.”

Gale says fewer similarities exist between COVID-19 and monkeypox. As a DNA virus, monkeypox is unlikely to produce as many variant strains as do RNA viruses, like COVID-19.

The World Health Organization is investigating the modes of transmission involved with the current monkeypox outbreak. The virus spreads between people through close physical contact and exposure to lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and possibly through contaminated materials such as bedding.

“Monkeypox symptoms take a lot longer to develop than do SARS-CoV-2 symptoms, maybe three weeks,” said Gale. “I would say that we need to handle monkeypox with as much caution as we would have handled smallpox because there’s so many unknowns.”

READ: Presumptive case of monkeypox in King County under investigation