Rash and fever, common symptoms of monkeypox and chickenpox, have confused people, although doctors have pointed out there is a difference in how the symptoms of the two viral illnesses occur in patients.
They also advised to consult a doctor to dispel any doubts.
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although clinically less severe.
During the rainy season, people are more prone to viral infections, and cases of chickenpox are widely seen during this period, along with other infections that also show symptoms such as rashes and nausea, said the Dr. Ramanjit Singh, Visiting Dermatology Consultant at Medanta Hospital.
“Due to this situation, some patients become confused and misinterpret chickenpox with monkeypox. The patient can determine whether he has monkeypox or not by understanding the sequence and occurrence of symptoms,” said Dr Ramanjit Singh.
Explaining further, he said that monkeypox usually starts with fever, malaise, headache, sometimes sore throat and cough, and lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) and all of these symptoms appear four days before skin lesions, rashes and other problems that mainly start in the hand and eyes and spread to the whole body.
Other experts agree and say that apart from skin involvement, there are also other symptoms in the case of monkeypox, but it is always best to consult a doctor to dispel any doubts.
In a few cases reported recently, two suspected cases of monkeypox turned out to be chickenpox.
A suspected monkeypox case admitted to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital, Delhi last week with fever and lesions, tested negative for the infection but was diagnosed with chickenpox. Similarly, an Ethiopian citizen, who had traveled to Bengaluru, was tested for chickenpox moneky after showing symptoms, but his report confirmed he had chickenpox.
India has so far reported four cases of monkeypox – three from Kerala and one from Delhi. Dr Satish Koul, director of the department of internal medicine at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, said: “In monkeypox, the lesions are larger than chickenpox. In monkeypox, lesions are seen on the palms and soles of the feet. days but not in monkey pox. The lesions are blistered and itchy in chickenpox. In monkeypox, the lesions are large, vesicular and non-itchy. Dr. Satish Koul also stated that duration of fever is longer in monkeypox and such patient has enlarged lymph nodes.
Elaborating on the virus that causes chickenpox, Dr. SCL Gupta, Medical Director of Batra Hospital, said that chickenpox is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus which is not as serious but also leads to rashes cutaneous. “It’s chickenpox season. Usually during the monsoon there’s this humidity, the rise in temperature, waterlogging, dampness and wet clothes, all of this leads to the growth of the virus.
“Also, there is a religious aspect associated with the disease. People treat it like a ‘goddess’ and so these patients are not treated with any kind of medicine. They are kept in isolation and given time to heal,” he said.
Speaking of monkeypox, Dr. SCL Gupta explained that such a virus requires an animal host but is self-limited with sore throat, fever and normal viral signs.
“The main sign of this virus is the rashes on the body which contain fluids. This leads to viral infection which weakens the resistance of the body. But problems arise due to its complication. In case, any bacterial infection and gets pus and leads to blisters leading to further complications in the body.” Right now monkeypox is in its juvenile stage. We don’t have adequate treatment. We just follow the isolation method and treat the suspected patient based on their symptoms. If there is a throat infection, we use the generic drugs that we usually take. So here it is a case of symptomatic treatment,” he said.
Doctors have also received questions about whether a previous chickenpox infection makes a patient immune to monekypox, to which the answer is a resounding no.
Dr. Rajinder Kumar Singal, Senior Director and Head of Department of Internal Medicine, BLK Max Hospital, New Delhi, said the two are caused by different viruses, the mode of transmission is different and prior infection does not provides no protection against the new. But those who have been vaccinated against smallpox have a lower chance of contracting monkeypox, he said.
“The smallpox vaccine was discontinued after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the disease had been completely eradicated around 1979-80. People born before 1980 who took the smallpox vaccine had less risk of contracting monkeypox. Both smallpox and monkeypox are caused by viruses from the same family,” added Dr. Rajinder Kumar Singhal.
Due to this similarity between smallpox and monkeypox, many countries have allowed the administration of smallpox vaccines, but in India, it is still not allowed. “The virus is in its juvenile stage and doctors are still figuring it out,” added Dr SCL Gupta.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)