Monkey Smallpox Glossary |  Understand disease-related terms

Monkey Smallpox Glossary | Understand disease-related terms

For the first time, a wave of monkeypox cases (monkeypox) reached numerous countries that were not endemic for the disease, especially in Europe, North America and South America. Cases are marked by rashes that have different stages, such as papules or pustules. The infection also causes myalgia and asthenia. Faced with so many different names, it is normal to get lost in some meanings, but this can get in the way of prevention strategies.

With that in mind, the Canaltech presents a glossary of monkeypox, where we seek to simplify the main terms and names involved with this disease discovered in 1970. To facilitate understanding, we have separated the terms into four large groups: general terms, symptoms, skin rashes and medicines or vaccines.

Papules, pustules, myalgia and asthenia are common terms to describe the symptoms of monkeypox (Image: Twenty20photos/Envato Elements)

Check out our glossary below and learn a little more about the disease, which has been spreading in an atypical way since May of this year:

General terms about monkeypox

viral zoonosis

Monkeypox is a disease that was initially transmitted from wild animals to humans. To this day, it is not known which was the first natural reservoir of the virus, but it is believed that they were different species of rodents from the African continent. Hence, it is called zoonosis.


This is officially the name of the disease in English. In some cases, the expression virus monkeypox (Mpxv) can also be used. In both situations, the idea is to refer to this infectious agent from the orthopoxvirus family.

It is very likely that in the future this name will be changed, as the monkeys are not responsible for the disease. In fact, cases of poisoning of these animals have been recorded because of the association with the infection in Brazil.


different from monkeypoxanother virus of the orthopoxvirus family lived for many years with the human species: the smallpox. This is responsible for causing common smallpox, but a successful immunization campaign — on a global scale — managed to eradicate it in the 1980s. Today, its risks and complications are no longer talked about.

Monkeypox is a virus in the same family as common smallpox (Image: CDC)

self-limiting disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that monkeypox is “a self-limiting disease with symptoms lasting 2 to 4 weeks”. In other words, if the person is in good health, the probability of recovery must be high, as the virus does not remain in the body for a longer period of time. In other infections, such as HIV, the person will live with the virus for their entire life.


According to the WHO, “a case of smallpox in a non-endemic country is considered an outbreak”. Before 2022, only countries on the African continent, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, reported significant cases of the disease every year.

endemic disease

As we began to explain in the previous topic, for a disease to be endemic, an expected number of cases must occur every year and, on average, in the same period. Apart from the issue of monkeypox, a typical example is dengue, which is considered endemic in Brazil.

In some African countries, monkeypox is endemic (Image: PerfectWave003/Envato)

community transmission

When there is no community transmission, it means that a disease arrives in a country or territory exclusively through imported cases, such as in people who have traveled. Due to failure in epidemiological surveillance, sick people arrive and are not identified, spreading a virus throughout the community. At this point, it is impossible to identify the source of the infectious agent. With this global wave, different countries have already recorded community transmission of monkeypox, such as Brazil.

Symptoms of Monkeypox Virus Infection

Swollen lymph nodes or lymphadenopathy

Among the symptoms of monkeypox is lymphadenopathy. This is a condition in which the lymph nodes — which are part of the immune system — swell and grow, because of viral or bacterial infections. You can feel these changes in the neck, armpit, or groin regions.

Even, according to experts, swollen lymph nodes is one of the symptoms that distinguishes monkeypox from chickenpox, syphilis and measles.


Severe muscle pain is also known as myalgia and can be one of the symptoms of monkeypox (Image: Icetray/Envato)

Basically, myalgia is the term doctors use to define muscle pain. This symptom can affect all the muscles of the body or only specific parts, depending on the intensity.

intense asthenia

Asthenia is also understood as a synonym for weakness or extreme tiredness. Patients who report this symptom report intense weakness and lack of energy to perform simple activities, such as walking or even getting out of bed.

secondary infections

When a patient is already debilitated and infected with a virus, complications can go beyond the original disease. “Complications of monkeypox can include secondary infections such as bronchopneumonia, sepsis, encephalitis and corneal infection with consequent loss of vision,” explains the WHO.

How to identify the outbreaks of the disease?

As we mentioned, one of the main identifying factors of monkeypox is the skin rashes of the disease, which can vary numerically from a few to hundreds. The point is that they follow a pattern—like an evolutionary scale—until they disappear.


The monkeypox rash appears as a macula, that is, a flat lesion that is not palpable. It’s like a reddish spot on the infected patient’s skin.


Macules develop into papules in case of virus infection monkeypox. In this case, the eruptions become higher and can be felt by touch. It is as if the stain has become a mosquito bite.


In the third stage, the eruptions become vesicles. This means that the lesions become small blisters, with a clear liquid inside.

Monkeypox causes the formation of blisters, also called vesicles (Image: Dr. Noble/CDC)


Now the pustules are basically the vesicles that contain pus inside. At this point, the liquid that was clear turns yellowish or darker and will eventually burst or leak.


Eventually, monkeypox lesions dry up and fall off, forming scabs. It’s the same thing that happens when you scratch a mosquito bite and a “scab” forms in its place.

Vaccines and medicines against monkeypox

forked needle

Forked needle helped eradicate smallpox, but should not be used against monkeypox (Image: James Gathany/CDC)

Despite the different name, the use of the bifurcated needle was considered one of the factors that allowed the eradication of smallpox from the globe, since the application requires only one dose, with multiple needles.

According to Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), this needle is called a bifurcated lancet, being composed of “a thin stainless steel shaft approximately five centimeters long and with two fork-shaped tips on one of its extremities”. It is still used today in some immunizations.


Developed by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, the ACAM2000 vaccine can be considered a modern and updated version of the formula that was applied against common smallpox in the 1970s.

The immunizing agent is applied through a bifurcated needle and contains the virus in its formula. vaccinia. In the United States, the immunizer can be applied in emergency cases of monkeypox, where the patient is authorized, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it is not the standard vaccine against the disease.


Produced by the Danish pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic, the Jynneos vaccine is also called Imvamune or Imvanex. This formula against smallpox and monkeypox is applied with a standard needle — subcutaneously.

To control the current outbreak, many countries apply the Jynneos vaccine against the monkeypox virus (Image: SteveAllenPhoto999/Envato)

For complete immunization, two doses are needed and immunity is already considered significant from 15 days after the second dose. In its composition is the virus vaccinia weakened (attenuated). This is the most used immunizer in the current wave of the disease.

Virus vaccinia

The virus vaccinia (VACV) is a relative of smallpox and gives monkeypox, but is used exclusively in immunizations against both diseases. This is because it is capable of generating a protective immune response in patients who have been vaccinated. ACAM2000 and Jynneos use this infectious agent.

Tecovirimat (TPOXX)

It is an antiviral drug for the treatment of smallpox and monkeypox in adults and pediatric patients weighing at least 3 kg. It can be taken as a capsule or given as an intravenous injection.

Source: With information: WHO, FDA and MCTI

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