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Monkeypox Outbreak: What Thyroid Patients Need To Know

Learn what thyroid patients need to know about the rising number of monkeypox cases in this article.
Monkeypox Outbreak: What Thyroid Patients Need To Know
Last updated:
7/19/2022
Written by:
Medically Reviewed by:
Article published May 24, 2022; last updated May 24, 2022.

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Monkeypox is a viral disease that originates in animals typically found in the tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa. Several animals are susceptible to the monkeypox virus, including rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species.

 

The virus is similar to smallpox; a related infection declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. Monkeypox is considered less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness.

Monkeypox cases rising globally

 

Monkeypox is a viral disease that originates in animals typically found in the tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa. Several animals are susceptible to the monkeypox virus, including rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species.


The virus is similar to smallpox; a related infection declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. Monkeypox is considered less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness.


Multiple clusters of monkeypox have been reported in the past two weeks in countries where the disease isn't present, including Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tracking these clusters. 


The World Health Organization has recorded more than 90 cases of monkeypox in a dozen countries, including Canada, Spain, Israel, France, Switzerland, the United States, and Australia.


As of May 23, 2022, U.S. health officials say they knew of one confirmed monkeypox case in Massachusetts and four probable cases—two in Utah, one in Florida, and one in New York City. All cases are men who had traveled outside the U.S. So far, the monkeypox cases have been mild, with no deaths reported worldwide. 


The leading theory to explain the current spread of monkeypox is sexual transmission at raves held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and sexual contact can amplify that transmission. This transmission is very different from the disease's usual spread pattern, where people are primarily infected by animals.


Belgium is the first country to mandate a 21-day quarantine for monkeypox patients, and the U.K. recommends that those at "high risk" for monkeypox self-isolate for 21 days to reduce transmission risk.

 

Are thyroid patients at risk of monkeypox infection?

 

Risk factors for monkeypox include contact with live or dead animals, consumption of wild game or bush meat, or close contact with a person infected with monkeypox.

 

People at high risk for monkeypox infection include those who had:

  • Direct exposure to broken skin or mucous membranes of symptomatic monkeypox case
  • Exposure to bodily fluids of people with monkeypox infection
  • Exposure to potentially infectious material like clothing or bedding without wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

Severe disease and mortality may be higher among children, young adults, and immunocompromised individuals.

 

Are autoimmune thyroid patients immunocompromised?

 

Immunodeficiency is when the immune system doesn't respond sufficiently to infection. Autoimmunity is when the immune system is overactive and responds to healthy cells as though they were foreign.

 

People with autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto's disease are not immunocompromised.  

 

However, having one autoimmune condition can put you at risk for another. So, some people with Hashimoto's may have a greater chance of developing another health condition that causes them to be immunocompromised. 

 

Some autoimmune disorders are treated with immunosuppressant drugs to help decrease their immune system activity, which may make them immunocompromised. However, these drugs are not necessary for treating Hashimoto's alone.

 

Immunosuppressant drugs often treat autoimmune conditions like:

  • Crohn's disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Psoriasis
  • Alopecia areata

 

The primary medical treatment for hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's is thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Signs and symptoms of monkeypox

 

Monkeypox symptoms are similar to but less intense than the symptoms of smallpox, beginning with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. 

 

The primary difference between the symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes your lymph nodes to swell while smallpox does not. 

 

The time from infection to symptoms for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range even longer from 5−21 days.

 

The illness begins with:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

 

Typically within 1 to 3 days after the appearance of fever, the infected person develops a rash. The rash or "pox" consists of painful blisters and lesions that usually start on the face and spread to other parts of the body before falling off.

 

The monkeypox illness typically resolves in 2−4 weeks. However, in Africa, monkeypox causes death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease.

 

Prevention and treatment of monkeypox

At current, there is no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox virus infection. Antiviral drugs and immunoglobulins used against smallpox can be used to control a monkeypox outbreak in the United States. The smallpox vaccine is about 85 percent effective at preventing monkeypox.

 

The monkeypox virus can be transmitted when a person comes into contact with the virus from infected animals, humans, or materials. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract, or mucous membranes like the eyes, nose, or mouth). 

 

Measures you can take to prevent infection with the monkeypox virus:

  • Avoid direct contact with wild animals that are known to harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or dead in areas where monkeypox typically occurs)
  • Avoid contact with any materials that have been in touch with a sick animal, like bedding
  • Separate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients

 

Human transmission of monkeypox is much easier to prevent and control than a virus with aerosolization components like measles or COVID-19.

 

The same strategies that we employed for the COVID-19 pandemic, like social distancing, increased ventilation, good hand hygiene, and staying home when sick, can help prevent the spread of monkeypox.

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The CDC continues to monitor this situation very closely, and reportedly, there is a national stockpile of medications available should there be a more significant outbreak of monkeypox.

 

Public health officials advise that anyone who experiences symptoms, has had contact with symptomatic people, or has recently traveled to Africa, should contact their healthcare professional.

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