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Monkeypox is almost nothing like COVID-19. Here's what to know, from 2 scientists who've studied it

Tom Avril, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

Monkeypox is almost nothing like COVID-19.

Among the many differences — fortunately, for a world weary of the pandemic — is that monkeypox is far less transmissible.

So although a monkeypox case was identified Wednesday in Massachusetts, along with a handful earlier this month in Europe, infectious-disease experts say it won't mean another global health crisis.

Yet monkeypox is a serious disease, well worth monitoring so it can be contained with the standard tools of public health. Chief among them, in this case, are vaccines (yes, there already is one) and isolating infected people.

Monkeypox is not new. Several thousand cases are reported each year, almost entirely in Africa, though some of the newly reported cases in Europe have no known link to Africa.

Alas, social media already is rife with monkeypox misinformation, perhaps unsurprisingly for a disease with a name that sounds like something out of a bad disaster movie.


To cut through the clutter, we spoke to Brian DeHaven, an associate professor of biology at La Salle University, and Stuart Isaacs, under whom DeHaven did a Ph.D. on pox viruses at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.

—What causes monkeypox?

Like COVID, monkeypox is caused by a virus. But the two microbes are not remotely related.

Coronaviruses contain single strands of genetic material called RNA. The monkeypox virus carries its genetic code in DNA, which is double-stranded.


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