Monkeypox in Africa
Level 1 - Practise health precautions (more details)
Original publication date: July 29, 2022
Updated: October 24, 2022
There are ongoing outbreaks of monkeypox in Nigeria and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Within Africa, the spread of infections from animals to humans is common.
During your travel, you may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care should you become ill, and may experience delays in returning home.
Clusters of monkeypox cases have also been reported in several countries internationally, outside of areas in Central and West Africa where cases are normally found. PHAC is working closely with international, provincial and territorial health partners to gather information on this evolving issue. For more information on monkeypox cases outside of Africa, please read the Monkeypox: Advice for travellers travel health notice.
Monkeypox is viral infection with a rash that may be painful. It is usually self-limited, meaning most people recover on their own after a few weeks. However, in some situations, people may become very sick and death may occur. It is regularly found in parts of Central and West Africa, where it has been re-emerging in recent years.
Monkeypox virus can spread in three ways:
- from animals to humans
- from person to person
- through direct contact with contaminated objects
Monkeypox can spread from an infected animal to a human through direct contact.
Humans may also become infected if they:
- prepare or eat undercooked meat of infected animals
- come into contact with an infected animal's body fluids
In the wild, African rodents are thought to be the main carriers of the virus, however, other carriers include primates, such as monkeys.
Monkeypox can spread from person to person through contact with an infected person’s:
- lesions or scabs that may be found on the skin or mucosal surfaces (such as eyes, mouth, throat, genitalia, rectum). These lesions may resemble chickenpox.
- blood or body fluids
- contaminated clothing or linens, such as bedding and towels, or by sharing personal objects used by an infected person (such as razors, utensils, needles, sex toys, toothbrushes)
- respiratory droplets (for example, from coughs and sneezes)
- While respiratory droplets may transmit monkeypox virus, this is not well understood at this time.
The risk of transmission increases when coming into close contact with someone who is infected, such as:
- during sexual contact (including oral and non-penetrative sexual contact)
- when providing care
- when living in the same household
An infected pregnant person may also pass on the virus to their developing fetus.
Symptoms of monkeypox can begin 5 to 21 days after exposure, and can include:
- swelling of the lymph nodes
- muscle pain
- joint pain
- back pain
- onset of a rash or lesions
It is possible that a rash may be the only presenting symptom. The rash is similar in appearance to chickenpox or sexually transmitted infections (such as herpes or gonorrhea). It can be painful and could affect any part of the body, such as the mouth, genitals, perianal area, face, arms and legs, feet, and hands. The rash usually lasts between 14 and 28 days and changes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.
Symptoms of monkeypox typically last from 2 to 4 weeks. Treatment is mainly supportive.
There is a vaccine approved for use in Canada under some circumstances. Contact your local public health authority to learn more.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before you travel.
You can reduce the risk of becoming infected with or spreading monkeypox by:
- staying home when you’re sick
- delay your travel if you have any symptoms of monkeypox, or have been diagnosed with monkeypox
- avoiding contact with animals, specifically African rodents and monkeys, and materials contaminated with their body fluids
- avoiding eating undercooked meat
- avoiding close physical contact, including sexual contact, with people who have or may have monkeypox
- covering coughs and sneezes (for example by using the bend of your arm or a tissue or by wearing a well-fitting mask)
- washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
- cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and objects
Monitor your health
Be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox and report any concerns, particularly a new rash or lesions with or without other symptoms, to a health care professional. Individuals engaging with new or multiple sexual partners should be particularly vigilant.
- If you’ve been exposed, watch for symptoms for 21 days and avoid taking medications that are known to lower fever, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and acetylsalicylic acid. They may mask an early symptom of monkeypox infection.
- If you develop symptoms that could be due to monkeypox when you are travelling or after your return, isolate immediately and contact a health care professional or your local public health authority and avoid contact with others. Tell them where you have been travelling or living and follow their instructions.
- If you have symptoms that could be due to monkeypox during the flight, tell the flight attendant before you land or the border services officer as you enter the country. They will notify a quarantine officer who can assess your symptoms. Make sure you keep your mask (preferably a well-fitting medical mask) on at all times during the flight.
If you've been infected with the monkeypox virus, the local public health authority may require that you isolate to prevent further spread.
Information for health care professionals
Monkeypox information for health professionals can be found on the Government of Canada’s Monkeypox: For health professionals website.
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